This is a moment for all Americans to be proud of the best thing George W. Bush did as president: launching an initiative to combat AIDS in Africa that has saved millions of lives.
All week, more than 20,000 delegates from around the world have been attending the 19th International AIDS Conference here in Washington. They look like any other group of conventioneers, laden with satchels and garlanded with name tags. But some of these men and women would be dead if not for Bush’s foresight and compassion.
Those are not words I frequently use to describe Bush or his presidency. But credit and praise must be given where they are due, and Bush’s accomplishment — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — deserves accolades. It is a reminder that the United States can still be both great and good.
When the Bush administration inaugurated the program in 2003, fewer than 50,000 HIV-infected people on the African continent were receiving the antiretroviral drugs that keep the virus in check and halt the progression toward full-blown AIDS. By the time Bush left office, the number had increased to nearly 2 million. Today, the United States is directly supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 4 million men, women and children worldwide, primarily in Africa.