Thursday marks World AIDS Day, which is observed every December 1 under a proclamation issued by President Bill Clinton in 1995. The George W. Bush administration made AIDS a major part of its agenda, creating 2002’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis,and 2003's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR. These initiatives sought to improve AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa, where the epidemic had hit the hardest. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday, President Bush defended his foreign aid programs, saying,
No nation can solve all the problems of the world. But a nation that believes human dignity is universal—that affirms that all men and women are created equal—will do what it can. In the U.S., foreign humanitarian assistance, including AIDS relief, represents less than 1% of our federal budget. It is not the cause of our fiscal problems. Reducing our commitment would only succeed in increasing the sum of suffering.
President Barack Obama also used Thursday as on opportunity to call attention to AIDS, announcing that his administration will ramp up efforts to combat the disease worldwide. He raised the goal of number of AIDS sufferers to be provided with treatments from 4 million to 6 million people. He vowed to increase domestic spending on AIDS by $50 million. White House officials insist that the money will come from existing budgets and thus will not require congressional approval. "We can beat this disease. We can win this fight. We just have to keep at it, today, tomorrow, and every day until we get to zero," said Obama at a World AIDS Day event where he was joined by President Bush via satellite. The renewed attention to fighting AIDS comes at a time of dire fiscal obstacles for the United States, with priorities cutting—not increasing—federal spending usually dominating the political discourse.
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