Thirty years ago federal researchers confirmed what thousands feared: A new disease was killing gay men in San Francisco and other big cities. It was the start of a sad, divisive and costly battle that is reaching another turning point.
The AIDS/HIV epidemic — now felt worldwide — may be curving downward, with 1.8 million dying last year, compared with 2.2 million in the mid-2000s. Life-sustaining drugs, new treatments and continued research are producing results to the point where health planners believe a future generation may live free of the condition.
But there’s a flip side to the glad tidings. Infection rates are continuing at a steady pace of 2.7 million per year. The impact of AIDS medicine — a concoction of drugs that keep the virus in check but not eliminated — is hampered by a delivery system that reaches only a portion of those in need. Outside of health care and drug labs, there’s another factor: Wealthy nations such as the United States aren’t feeling so rich anymore and want to cut back on aid that pays for much of the effort.
At some point, it will be time to declare victory and move on. Other diseases and social problems need attention, after all. But that moment hasn’t come yet. The AIDS trouble zone has grown far beyond gay men in urban America to nearly every population group on every continent.
The bill remains enormous.
The next phase is important to watch. At a time when the AIDS numbers are turning, will this country and others pull back or stay in the fight? This war isn’t over.
San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 30)
GOP foreign policy
The Republican presidential debate in Washington, D.C., gave voters a chance to hear the candidates field questions on foreign policy — an issue that has flown under the radar this year while unemployment has hovered around 9 percent.
But the debate’s rapid-fire format, which never gave all eight candidates a chance to answer the same question, allowed few opportunities for the sort of give-and-take exchanges the second-tier candidates needed to make up ground on front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich fared well on some topics, but faces a backlash for scolding his party’s base while responding to a question about whether illegal immigrants should be deported.
Gingrich and Romney both appeared confident, perhaps because both have articulated clear foreign policy positions while some of their opponents have suffered self-inflicted wounds on the same topic.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “Oops” moment during the Nov. 9 debate was bad enough. But at the Sept. 22 debate, Perry had a similarly bizarre response when apparently caught off-guard by a question about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Herman Cain’s buzz, too, has dissipated somewhat, partly because of sexual harassment allegations. But Cain also hurt himself with an incoherent response to a simple question about President Barack Obama’s Libya policy during a Nov. 14 meeting with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s editorial board.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman sounded more like a president when he spoke of the importance of independent White House thinking.
Huntsman’s opponents would do well to brush up on foreign policy, an issue that has defined many presidencies. Voters may be hesitant to replace Obama, who speaks confidently and authoritatively on the subject, with a commander-in-chief who might surprise them.
The Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star (Nov. 30)
Concerns in Egypt
Millions of Egyptians waited in long lines to cast votes for the election of a lower house of the country’s new parliament, even though they don’t know how much power that parliament will have.
The voting is one more faltering step toward what we hope — and more importantly, millions of Middle East residents hope — will one day be a region dominated by democracies.
The greatest uncertainty in Egypt now involves how much power the country’s military leaders are willing to cede to citizens. There are also concerns the country could be taken over by Islamist leaders who have little sympathy for the rights of those who don’t share their religious views.
Egypt’s generals, who worked closely with former dictator Hosni Mubarak and assumed control after Mubarak was deposed in February, have said they will not give up authority to the new parliament, even though they authorized these elections.
Elections for the upper house of parliament are scheduled for March, with presidential elections expected in mid-2012.
As a result of the generals’ intransigence, the mood of Egyptian voters was less jubilant than that of their Tunisian counterparts, who cast ballots in that country’s first free elections a month ago. According to several news accounts, there was black humor among Egyptians waiting to vote, fears that what they were doing would make little difference and concerns they would be electing a puppet parliament that would simply do the military’s bidding.
However, the fact that so many Egyptians were willing to endure lengthy waits to cast ballots, despite the uncertainty, demonstrates that they want a real voice in their government and they are not going to give in easily to those who would deny them that voice.
The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo. (Nov. 30)