Archive for AIDS

George Bush Gently Reminds Obama To Focus On Africa, AIDS

Because, as we all know, he did more to help very poor Africans than Obama and Clinton rolled together.

Early in my first term, it became clear that much of sub-Saharan Africa was on the verge of catastrophe. In some nations perhaps a quarter of the population was infected with HIV. The disease was prevalent among teachers, nurses, factory workers, farmers, civil servants – the very people who make a society run. Drugs to treat the disease existed and were falling in price, but they could hardly be found in Africa. Whole countries were living in the shadow of death, making it difficult for them to plan or prepare for the future.

Our response began with an effort to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus – the saddest, most preventable aspect of the crisis. In 2002, America helped found the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to encourage the concerted action of wealthy nations. In 2003, I announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an ambitious bilateral program to confront the worst of the pandemic with speed and urgency. Members of Congress from both parties, leaders of African nations and outside advocates such as Bono became partners with my administration in a tremendous undertaking.
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In all of these efforts, my concern was results. I was frankly skeptical of some past foreign assistance programs. In this crisis, we needed not only more resources but also to use them differently. So we put in place a unified command structure; set clear, ambitious, measurable goals; insisted on accountability; and made sure that host governments took leadership and responsibility. The results came more quickly than many of us expected. Early in 2003, there were perhaps 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa on AIDS treatment. Today, thanks to America, other donor nations and the tireless work of Africans themselves, nearly 4 million are. Fragile nations have been stabilized, making progress possible in other areas of development.

I wonder if any of our readers that currently or in the past were obsessed with their hatred of George W. Bush would care to comment?

But the most vivid results, for me, had a more human scale. On World AIDS Day in 2005, two young children from South Africa, Emily and Lewis, came for a White House visit. They chased around the Oval Office before Emily did what many others no doubt wanted to do – she fell asleep in her mother’s lap during my speech. Both young children were HIV-positive but had begun treatment. I could not even imagine all that curiosity and energy still and silent.

George Bush was and is what he sold himself as – a compassionate conservative. What the heck is Barack Obama?

Bush’s advice to Congress:

I am happily out of the political business. But I can offer some friendly advice to members of Congress, new and old. A thousand pressing issues come with each day. But there are only a few that you will want to talk about in retirement with your children. The continuing fight against global AIDS is something for which America will be remembered. And you will never regret the part you take.

- Aggie

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Leftist Journalist Humorously Sidles Up To Reality

Obama, Bush, AIDS

He gets his Leftist rant out immediately, to establish that he is a deep and balanced, nay, a nuanced thinker:

For all the discord the Bush administration sowed on the world stage — withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol and various arms agreements, holding foreign nationals indefinitely at Guantanamo with restricted rights, generally disdaining multilateralism — the previous president was rightfully celebrated for his commitment to fighting the global AIDS epidemic.

Oy, what a sentence! Look at the misery Bush created! But then he slips in the beginnings of the miserable acknowledgment that his guy, Obama, hasn’t done much for AIDS patients in Africa. And don’t you just love how he slithers past the obvious fact that we still hold people indefinitely at Guantanamo with restricted rights? And what the heck is multilateralism, really?

In the four years following the unprecedented creation in 2004 of the funding mechanism known as PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), Bush sent some $19 billion to Africa and other hard-hit parts of the world.

How much has the Obama administration added this year? Only $366 million beyond the prior year’s level. It doesn’t come close to the $1 billion a year the current president promised to add as a candidate.

Well, let’s see. Bush presided over a good economy. He treated businessmen and women with respect, as if they were citizens of the United States, even. He didn’t threaten boots on the neck, pitchforks, or any other nastiness. And, yes, he was generous to the world’s poorest and sickest. But then again, the economy was growing, so he could be.

That Republican president Bush was a bigger advocate on AIDS than “liberal” Obama may come as a surprise, but many people around the world are starting to notice the discrepancy. That includes Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel laureate.

On Wednesday, Tutu took the president to task in a sharply worded New York Times op-ed that noted substantially fewer additional African HIV patients will receive treatment than did under Bush if the funding slack persists.

Indeed, according to two Harvard researchers, if aid isn’t substantially increased over Bush-era levels, an estimated 1.2 million avoidable deaths could occur just in South Africa over the next five years. That would happen on Obama’s watch.

Maybe Obama “hopes” the problem will disappear?

Domestically, the news isn’t much better.

When Obama rolled out his ballyhooed national HIV/AIDS strategy last week, there was no new funding attached, just a mandate to re-allocate existing funds to the communities most in need and the tactics that work best.

Ha ha ha… do you mean that he is just rearrange the piles in the closet? No new resources? Is that what you guys voted for?

But for all the innovative ideas in the strategy document, such as using social media to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, what we really need is money.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but, “Well, let’s see. Bush presided over a good economy. He treated businessmen and women with respect, as if they were citizens of the United States, even. He didn’t threaten boots on the neck, pitchforks, or any other nastiness. And, yes, he was generous to the world’s poorest and sickest. But then again, the economy was growing, so he could be.”

You need money? We all do at this point. To broaden the discussion a bit, have you had the opportunity to talk with, say, a member of the baby boomer generation, who has a sick elderly parent, or two? Because health care to that age group seems to have already “changed”. From my informal survey, I can report that they are being denied medications that they previously received and, in one case, here in the Northeast, an elderly man, an acquaintance, was being denied food on the mistaken assumption that he was terminally ill anyway. So why bother? Luckily for him, his adult child fought back and they started to feed him. It was the sort of thing that one reads about in the British media, but it happened here. Right here in River City. It isn’t only AIDS patients that will suffer under the Obama administration.

Elections have consequences.

- Aggie

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Obama Administration To Cut AIDS Funding In Africa

The Bush administration poured many millions of dollars into helping Africa, especially targeting AIDS. He received no credit for this, almost no media coverage, but the fact is that under President Bush, the US helped Africa at unprecedented levels.

Obama? Not so much.

US officials have asked some AIDS clinics overseas to stop enrolling new patients in a US-sponsored program that provides lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, in a bid to stem the rising costs of one of the most ambitious US assistance programs, according to interviews with doctors and official correspondence.

The move, which was prompted by tighter budgets as well as a debate over how limited global health care dollars can be spent most effectively, has sparked fears among AIDS advocates that the Obama administration is curtailing its commitment to a program that provides lifesaving drugs for 2.4 million people and that many view as President Bush’s most successful foreign policy legacy.

Currently, only about 40 percent of all those who need the drugs worldwide receive them, and demand for the expensive treatments remains high.

Obama administration officials say they are not capping the number of patients receiving antiretroviral drugs, but they acknowledge that they are seeking to control the ever-rising costs of the program, known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has grown from $2.3 billion in 2004 to nearly $7 billion this year.

“People are struggling to find resources to honor the commitments we have made,’’ Ambassador Eric Goosby, US global AIDS coordinator, said in an interview. “We’re not at a cap point yet. If it gets worse, we’ll have another discussion.’’

Let’s rewrite that article in the make-believe situation that the Bush administration was cutting funding to Africa, funding expanded under his predecessor. It would run something like this:

The racist administration of President George W. Bush is heartlessly cutting funding for AIDS care to Africans…. (followed by photos and heart wrenching stories about orphans, soon-to-be-orphans, weeping patients)

Alas, when the Messiah cuts funding to the world’s neediest people, the Boston Globe gets all rational on us.

- Aggie

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Another Example Of How Being PC Hurts The Poor

Circumcision of infants was routine until 1999 when the American Academy of Pediatrics decided it was unnecessary. The political climate, beginning in the 1980′s, was negative towards circumcision for the usual reasons. If you’ve been breathing, you know what I’m talking about. Turns out that circumcision prevents STDs

The decision of whether or not to circumcise an infant can be a difficult one, but new research suggests that having the procedure may reduce the risk of certain infections later in life.

In a study of more than 5,000 uncircumcised adult Ugandan males, researchers found that after circumcision, the rates of infection with the virus that causes herpes
went down by 28 percent, and the transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) — the virus that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts
– was reduced by 35 percent.

In a previous study, the same researchers found that circumcision reduced infection with the HIV virus by 60 percent. Two other research groups — one working in Kenya and the other in South Africa — have also had similar findings.

“We hope these data will ultimately result in policy changes in recommending circumcision for young boys or adult men to decrease the rates of infection with HIV, HPV and herpes,” said the lead author of the Ugandan study, Dr. Thomas Quinn, a senior investigator in infectious diseases at the National Institute for Allergy
and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Oh, but it isn’t just a problem in Uganda. Here in the US, as a result of the decision made by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are seventeen states in which Medicaid will not cover the procedure. And in those states, circumcision rates are down around 31%, compared to over 70% in states where the procedure is covered This means that poor kids in those states will have more STDs, the poor males and all of their partners.

Just over half of male newborns in the U.S. get circumcised, according to research published earlier this year in the American Journal of Public Health. The percentage has declined over the past decade, in part because the American Academy of Pediatrics said in 1999 that the evidence is “not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”

Opponents of circumcision say the procedure isn’t medically essential and causes unnecessary distress to the baby. They add that proper hygiene and safe sex can prevent disease.

The academy’s guidance, issued before the landmark African trials, remains in effect. Partly as a result, Medicaid plans in 16 states don’t pay for circumcision, according to the American Journal of Public Health. Circumcision rates in states with Medicaid coverage for the procedure are nearly 70%, while in the states without such coverage just 31% of male newborns get circumcised, the Journal said. Medicaid is the state-federal insurance program for the needy.

Lack of Medicaid coverage for circumcision — combined with data showing higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in uncircumcised men — “may translate into future health disparities for children born to poor families,” says the study in the American Journal of Public Health.

I’m going to issue a quick Ya Think™ Award to the writers of that study. Congratulations. You’ve just discovered something that has been known since the early days of Judaism. Circumcision is healthy, even if it is somewhat icky.

We’re too hip for our own good. We fail to consider the Law of Unintended Consequences.

- Aggie

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Bush Saved 10 Million Lives

Check this out and pass it along to every Bush hater you know

(CNN) — A legacy of President George W. Bush will be that he saved 10 million lives around the world.

His critics ignore it, but name another president about whom one can say that with such certainty. It is what historians will say a decade from now looking back. Not bad for a president who leaves office with the lowest approval rating in recent memory.

The bottom line is: George Bush is a healer.

First, a surprise proclamation came on January 29, 2003.

I was in the first row in the House chamber when three quarters through his State of the Union address, the president boldly said: “I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years … to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean” and “lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature.”

And lead the world we did. No president in history had made such a commitment against a single disease. Those words and the action that followed meant that instead of another 30 million people dying from HIV infections, maybe just another 20 million will.

Later that night in an interview for CNN in my Capitol office, I predicted that five years later, this commitment to fight HIV would be the single most significant thing the president said that night. It was.

But even I — who as physician in Africa had witnessed how this virus was hollowing out societies — did not predict the huge global impact this Bush commitment would have on generations to come.

Keep reading. I wonder if Obama will save lives or cost people their lives with poorly thought out policies of appeasement and an economic policy that leaves nothing for the poor of the world? We’ll soon know.

- Aggie

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Presidents Here! Get Yer Ex-Presidents!

What will it take to get you to buy this ex-president? He’s listed at twenty-five million—but if I talk to my manager, I might be able to let you have him for ten.

After years of pressing the Clintons to disclose their foundation funders, the time has come. As part of Hillary’s Secretary of State deal with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton has finally coughed up his donor list.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by the former president to finance his library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts to reduce poverty and treat AIDS. Other foreign government givers include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Italy and Jamaica.

AUSAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid program, and COPRESIDA-Secretariado Tecnico, a Dominican Republic government agency formed to fight AIDS, each gave $10 million to $25 million.

Jamaica?

Dominican Republic?

Ought they not be net recipients of AIDS money, not shaken down for donations?

Sheesh, Bill, it’s not like the DR is made of money, like Kuwait, Brunei, and the rest of the OPEC crowd. Why didn’t you extort Haiti while you were at it?

There’ll be much more to glean from this list, but this was my first stumbling block.

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Allah Cures AIDS—Ask Him How!

There may be peace, but there are no flies upon the Prophet:

Following are excerpts from a program featuring Dr. Ahmad Al-Muzain, a Palestinian expert on Koranic science, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on September 19, 2008:

Ahmad Al-Muzain: The Prophet Muhammad said: “If a fly falls into your drink, you should dip it in the drink, and then dispose of the fly, because one of its wings bears a disease, and the other wing bears the cure.” This hadith was included in the Al-Bukhari collection. This hadith makes it absolutely clear that the Prophet Muhammad confirmed a clear scientific fact: If a fly falls into a vessel – before a person drinks from this vessel, he should dip the fly in his drink, before disposing of it. Then he should drink the beverage, because it won’t do him any harm. Why? Because one of the fly’s wings bears the disease, and the other one bears the cure.
[...]

In Germany, the Church paid a very large sum of money to two scientists to disprove this hadith.

[...]

The scientists took samples from the wings of flies, and began to examine them, analyze them, and take samples from their surface, in order to expose what existed on each wing. The devastating result constituted a slap in the face. The truth was devastating, and it backfired on them. The two scientists reached an astounding conclusion. They said that on one of its wings, the fly carries a huge amount of different types of bacteria, which adhere to it when it lands on rotting pieces of food that it eats. As for the other wing, Allah has given the fly the great ability to carry antidotes to these microbes.
[...]
When Bayer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, learned about this study, it derived great benefit from it. It established biological breeding farms, where they would raise flies and extract antibiotics from their wings – the strongest antibiotics in the whole world. This antibiotic was made into a course of five pills, which is given to the patients, and it is used – believe it or not, my brothers – to treat AIDS patients. It strengthens their immune system, and destroys all types of microbes with which they are afflicted. This is all thanks to the power of this antibiotic. Obviously, this antibiotic is very expensive, and one course costs more than $500, but it is very strong and effective. How did they discover it? From this hadith.
[...]
Did the Prophet Muhammad have labs to carry out research? Did Abu Bakr know anything about entomology, parasitology, or bacteriology? Of course not. Absolutely not. So how did they make all these scientific accomplishments? The only logical conclusion is that this science was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Creator.

One might have wished the Creator had revealed his “science” a quarter-century ago, but that is the thinking of an infidel.

BTW, something about the ravings of Dr. Al-Muzain sounded familiar, and what do you know? We’ve met him before:

The Prophet Muhammad said that there is no need to wash off the urine of the male infant. Only the urine of the female infant should be washed. In the case of the urine of the male infant, it is enough to sprinkle water lightly over it. From this, the religious scholars have concluded that the urine of the male is less impure than the urine of the female. This gives rise to many questions: Why is there a distinction between the urine of the male and the female? What is the wisdom in this?

Wisdom, shmisdom. Who needs wisdom when you have such faith?

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Two Percent of White Straights

That’s one thing I gleaned from this story:

There are more new cases of Americans infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, than previously believed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday.

About 56,000 people became infected with HIV in the past year, which translates to about 40 percent more cases than officials had estimated, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

According to the report, 53 percent of new HIV infections occur in homosexual or bisexual men. African-Americans account for 45 percent, or 25,000 new cases annually, meaning they are seven times more likely to contract HIV than whites.

I may have those figures wrong, as there are some African Americans who are also bi or gay.

Oh, come on, there are too.

But the point still remains: AIDS in the white straight community is almost unknown. Yet homosexuals and black people are facing an epidemic.

If you think you know why, send your guess on the back of a postcard to…

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If Silence = Death, I Guess I Got More to Say

I am both shocked and grateful to learn about the AIDS epidemic in the black community. Shocked because I knew it was bad, but not this bad.

Grateful because the discussion of the epidemic has allowed us a glimpse into how such self-inflicted wounds are administered:

Since she was 12 years old, Suzanne Africa Engo has been working to raise AIDS awareness.

“Black women are an endangered species,” she said in a phone interview.

AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women between 25 and 34, and the second-leading cause of death in black men from 35 to 44, according to a report released Tuesday.

“For a lot of young black women, what’s putting them at risk is emotion,” the 29-year-old iReporter said. “Young women are going to men for security — you’re talking about a fatherless home and a girl looking for approval. That’s the kind of thing that puts them at risk.”

I’m not sure I could get away with laying the AIDS epidemic among black women on black men—but that’s why I’m anxious to learn more.

iReporter Nashawn Anderson also sent in a video about perceptions of HIV on campus. She interviewed her fellow students at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, also in Atlanta.

“AIDS is alive and active and [Spelman students] realize this,” she said by phone. “They want to tell people to stay educated.” Lack of education “is the only reason AIDS is still going on.”

“Put yourself first,” a woman says in Anderson’s video report. “A lot of people don’t use protection because their partner doesn’t want to use protection. But they need to think about it. If their partner really loves them, would they want to put them in that predicament?”

That’s lack of education? It sounds like lack of something else—self-respect, for starters. To repeat what Suzanne Africa Engo said above:

“For a lot of young black women, what’s putting them at risk is emotion. Young women are going to men for security — you’re talking about a fatherless home and a girl looking for approval. That’s the kind of thing that puts them at risk.”

I don’t like the sound, the insinuation, of the claim that African Americans are uninformed about AIDS. I don’t like much of anything about this epidemic, but I’d rather address self-esteem in the community than ignorance.

In any case, the lives of millions of African Americans hang in the balance. Aren’t those stakes worth a few uncomfortable questions?

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One Demographic Definitely Not for Obama

African leaders, for good reasons and bad, don’t want the local boy to make good [Via Tim Blair]:

Obama’s popularity abroad, and indeed in the US, is almost dizzying. However if the elections were left to African presidents to decide, McCain could probably beat Obama with 90 per cent of the vote.

This might be surprising, given that Obama is not only an African-American, but his father was a Kenyan chap who went to the USA as a fellowship student – and like every conflicted African abroad, abandoned his American family and came home to find for himself a strong-backed local girl.

Over the years, I have got to know many democratic activists in Africa. Many of them have since become ministers, presidential aides, or government advisers.

The striking thing is that when I talk to them about the American elections, almost all of them say; “Don’t be surprised. Obama might be worse for Africa than a Republican president. After all, despite all the terrible things critics say about George Bush, Africa did very well by him. Consider how much he supported Aids programmes on the continent. Unparalled…”

Many African leaders, however, are not fools, and are not about to come out openly to express unease. None of them, though, will openly show excitement about a possible Obama victory, even for tribal reasons – that he is one of us.

One reason for this is that an Obama presidency would significantly alter Africa’s relationship with the US, and the West at large. As we have argued before, African leaders will not play on Western guilt about colonialism and slavery to squeeze easy money out of them, or shield themselves against Western criticism of their undemocratic ways. How can they, when Obama himself is Black.

So: George was good for Africa (“unparalleled”); African leadership doesn’t want to risk the guilt gravy-train (I won’t call it blackmail for obvious reasons)—any other reasons?

So far, Obama has put together a frighteningly efficient campaign organisation and been remarkably clever about fundraising and energising groups that had been alienated by mainstream American politics. If he were to win and replicate the same abilities, he could give the US its most efficient and best-run government in many years.

Now you will have a Black president who not only won an election honestly, but went on to govern competently and solve some of the problems of his country.

I can see the world looking around, careful not to be caught staring, and saying; “Well, so this thing isn’t about skin colour after all”, and wondering; “So why can’t these African leaders do at least one-tenth of what Obama is doing?”

I don’t think African leaders will have to worry about that last point, but that’s my natural pessimism. Still, an interesting look at global politics.

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More on Blacks and AIDS

When I compared the African American community to basket case nations like Sierra Leone, I was too hard—on Sierra Leone:

Fewer people are dying of AIDS, more patients are on HIV medication and the global AIDS epidemic is stable after peaking in the late 1990s.

“We’ve achieved more in the past five years than in the previous 20 years,” said Peter Piot, the agency’s executive director. “But if we relax now, it would be disastrous. It would wipe out all of our previous investments.”

HIV is rising in several countries beyond Africa, including China, Germany, Indonesia, Russia and Britain, according to the report, which was issued in advance of next week’s international AIDS conference in Mexico City.

The good news is that the global number of new infections was down to about 2.7 million people in 2007 from a peak of about 5 million new cases annually in the early 2000s.

So infection rates in Africa are declining, while they’re going up in China, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, Britain, and black America. Just stating facts.

And another fact: who’s been President during these last five years when we’ve seen such progress against global AIDS—and what has been one of his signature global initiatives? Can you form your mouth to say the words: President Bush?

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If Silence = Death, May I Say Something Else?

I frown on nanny-state attempts to modify behavior like this one:

City officials are putting South Los Angeles on a diet.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in an impoverished swath of the city with a proliferation of such eateries and above-average rates of obesity.

The yearlong moratorium — which the mayor still must sign into law — is intended to give the city time to attract restaurants that serve healthier food. The action is believed to be the first of its kind by a major city to protect public health.

“Our communities have an extreme shortage of quality foods,” City Councilman Bernard Parks said.

Representatives of fast-food chains said they support the goal of better diets but believe they are being unfairly targeted. They say they already offer healthier food items on their menus.

“It’s not where you eat, it’s what you eat,” said Andrew Pudzer, president and chief executive of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr. “We were willing to work with the city on that, but they obviously weren’t interested.”

Right. You can eat relatively healthily at McDonalds now, if you choose to—Morgan Spurlock to the contrary—you just have to choose to. And some people choose not to.

So what are you going to do about it? Banning new restaurants won’t change people’s eating habits, and it’s not like the mystery of obesity is that hard to solve. People will smoke, drink to excess, and eat bad food, even if they know it’s bad for them—I believe the evidence supports that claim.

While they’re at it, they might as well ban sex in impoverished neighborhoods, at least African American ones. You think a spare tire is a problem, try AIDS. We wrote about it yesterday, but there’s still more to be said:

While Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain go back and forth over who didn’t visit troops in Germany; the impact of Obama’s overseas tour; and who is best positioned to deal with the crumbling economy, critical domestic issues like AIDS goes unnoticed.

Then again, we’ve been here before. Silence played a vital role in so many white, gay men dying in the 1980s. But the reality is we knew less then than we do today, so our silence in 2008 is more shameful than anything that took place during the Reagan administration.

Now it’s time to make it front and center.

This is not an issue that will be addressed solely by politicians. It is a national health crisis that will kill a number of people and cost untold millions in healthcare. Sitting on the sidelines simply isn’t an option.

Put me in, coach, I’ve got a great play! We order all black men and all black women not to have sex with anyone new for a whole year. Try it out first in LA, since they’re already guinea pigs for government behavior modification.

The writer is correct: we know more today about AIDS than we did on he 1980s, so there’s really no excuse for the high rate of the disease in black communities. No more sex, homies!

Is that front and center enough for you?

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