Compassionate Conservatism; AIDS Initiative Will Help Millions of African Children

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Byline: Deborah Simmons, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

About a year ago in this space, I wrote about the ugly facts about HIV/AIDS in Africa in general, and an upclose look at them in Uganda in particular. This year, President Bush put money where America's mouth is. But Washington politics, as usual, means you might need to lend your voice to this worthy cause.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced an emergency plan for AIDS relief, a generous initiative that would commit $15 billion over five years to prevent HIV/AIDS, treat people already infected and provide care for the millions of children orphaned by the virus. The commitment is necessary to help, in the president's words, "turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." The policy turns on the fundamental morals of safe sex abstinence, fidelity and condoms, which helped Uganda turn around its pervasive HIV/AIDS rates. It's the kind of compassionate conservatism that churns the stomachs of liberals and silences the hardest of hearts.

The ABC's of partisan politics Always Be Contrary are cause for concern, though. Conservatives are concerned about condom distribution and not enough emphasis on abstinence in the enabling legislation. I agree. Democrats, meanwhile, get nervous anytime the A word is used because to them the only options for family planning are abortions and birth control pills. Consequently, the other popular A word amendments is making the rounds on Capitol Hill. In the meantime, the wicked AIDS virus wends its way around Africa.

* Of the 42 million people around the globe with HIV, 30 million live in Africa.

* The majority of new infections are in the 15-to-24-year-old age group, and adolescent girls and young women are the most vulnerable.

* Of the 1.8 million pregnant women infected with the virus, 1.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.

* Because of HIV/AIDS, life expectancy in South Africa is expected to drop from 53 years to 41 over the next several years.

If none of those uncompromising stats pushes you into e-mailing or calling your congressman, consider this: 3 million African children under age 15 have the virus, and 10 million other African children have become orphans because of the disease.

Can you hear me now? I said 10 million children.

Some of these children have lost all immediate family members. Many grade-school-age Ugandans are cared for by a coterie offemale elders. These are not 40- and 50-year-old grandmothers, like we see in America. …