NYTimes profile: Clinton’s two act response to HIV

From the KaiserNetwork:

The New York Times on Tuesday profiled former President Clinton’s role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world. While Clinton “has made a lasting mark in a cause that he came to only late in his presidency,” he “faced some skepticism” when he became an HIV/AIDS advocate after leaving office, the Times reports. Through the Clinton Foundation, Clinton has “undertaken projects with two dozen developing countries, raising money to post nurses in rural Kenya, mustering experts to train hospital managers in Ethiopia and buying drugs for thousands of sick children,” the Times reports. Although Clinton has been involved in other causes such as childhood obesity, tsunami relief and global warming, “he has made his most substantive contribution on AIDS,” according to the Times. One of the first countries in which he addressed HIV/AIDS was Rwanda. In 2005, at Clinton’s urging and with the support of the Clinton Foundation, Paul Farmer, a Harvard University professor and co-founder of Partners in Health, “transformed a dilapidated facility” in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda, “into a thriving rural hospital,” the Times reports. Since then, more than 1,500 HIV-positive people in Rwinkwavu have begun receiving antiretroviral drugs. In addition, the town uses community workers — instead of physicians and nurses, who are in short supply — to deliver the drugs to HIV-positive people. Clinton also has collaborated with Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on the global fight against HIV/AIDS “with Mr. Clinton bringing star power and Mr. Gates his deep pockets,” according to the Times.

Missed Opportunity
Although Clinton has “come a long way on global AIDS,” some people say his early efforts to combat HIV/AIDS “did not match the epic scale of the human tragedy as it unfolded across Africa and millions died and were orphaned,” the Times reports. According to the Times, Clinton remains “adamant” that he had accomplished as much as possible for HIV/AIDS globally with a Congress that was “hostile to foreign aid.” However, Clinton does believe he was “wrong” to focus so much of his HIV/AIDS work during his presidency on protecting patent rights for drug companies. “The debate over whether Clinton missed a political opportunity to lead the charge on global AIDS years before Mr. [George W.] Bush seized it is far from over,” according to the Times. Greg Behrman, the author of “The Invisible People: How the U.S. Has Slept Through the Global AIDS Pandemic, the Greatest Human Catastrophe of Our Time,” said, “There are two acts here. Clinton’s post-presidential leadership has been extraordinary. As president, though, the record is clear. Clinton was not a leader on global AIDS and the consequences have been devastating.”

Clinton’s Work on Lowering Generic Antiretroviral Prices
Clinton has been credited with negotiating lower prices for generic antiretrovirals through agreements with pharmaceutical companies that cover more than 400,000 HIV-positive people in dozens of countries in part because Clinton’s “name opened doors with generic drug makers,” the Times reports. For example, in 2003, Clinton negotiated lower prices with Indian drug maker Cipla to cut by half to $140 per person annually the cost of its most common antiretroviral. Clinton’s HIV/AIDS advocacy also has extended to focus on HIV-positive children, according to the Times. His foundation has generated $4.4 million to purchase medicines for 13,000 HIV-positive children, train health workers, modernize pediatric wards and fund lab tests (Dugger, New York Times, 8/29).

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