President's policies are dangerous

Every day, nearly 8,500 people die from AIDS. Think about that. At that rate, it could take less than one and a half days to completely wipe out the entire population of American University - undergraduates, graduates, professors and staff.

That is a huge number of deaths every single day; there are even more infections. And guess what? Almost half of all new infections occur in people between the ages of 15 to 24 - our generation. It is our peers, our brothers, sisters, friends, who are being infected with HIV every day, all around the world and right here in DC. Does this seem right to you?

This plague is devastating entire countries. The life expectancy of people in Botswana will drop to 27 if things don't change drastically there. 27 years old, how much longer would you have to live? With numbers this astounding, one would assume that everything is being done to curb the pandemic. One would expect that governments, organizations, and individuals the world over are taking this issue seriously and working toward a fast and effective solution. Being an American citizen, I would expect that this country - a country that considers itself a leader in so many respects - would take the lead in fighting this battle.

But as much as I hope and wish and expect all of the above to happen, I am only disappointed. While President Bush made great promises with his AIDS Initiative, $15 billion worth of promises over five years, he actually requests current AIDS funding that is far below his promises. He has asked for less than $2 billion for the first year. Congress, however, realized the need for more money and more resources for this emergency and pushed the funding up to $2.4 billion in the first year.

The worst part about Bush's Initiative, however, is his language. Right now at least one-third of all of the prevention money will go towards abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Dangerous? Very. Realistic? Not in the slightest. Proven to reduce the number of HIV infections? Nope. Abstinence-only education has not been shown to delay sex until marriage. While it will sometimes slightly delay the onset of sexual activity, when students who received abstinence-only education do engage in sexual activity, they are unlikely to use any form of contraception or protection.

The only education that has been shown to reduce the number of youths' sexual partners, increase their use of contraception and delay the onset of first sexual intercourse (all of which lead to fewer HIV infections) is comprehensive sex education - including information about abstinence and about how to protect oneself.

President Bush's current policies are dangerous and they affect people our age around the world. When is he going to get serious and start promoting realistic, life saving policies? That time should be now.

World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. What is a more appropriate time to show the world Americans' commitment and passion for fighting this disease? The United States needs to fully fund the Presidential AIDS Initiative and get rid of its abstinence-only language. What can you do about it? How can you show you care and have your voice heard? Participate in the ACT-UP protest on Nov. 24 (meeting at 12 noon at McPherson Square). Join thousands of HIV-positive and HIV-negative people to tell the president that now is the time to change his policies on HIV/AIDS. Whether you come out to this protest or not, this is an issue that needs some serious attention immediately. With 8,500 people dying everyday, we cannot wait another minute, another month, another election.

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