WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 2003, the U.S. government launched the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis sweeping Africa. In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Former President George W. Bush opined on the PEPFAR program, arguing that, “Saving nearly 12 million lives is proof that PEPFAR works, and I urge our government to fully fund it.” The PEPFAR initiative and its remarkable success are integral parts of George W. Bush’s Africa legacy.
The first iteration of PEPFAR allocated $15 billion over five years to spend on antiretroviral drugs, treatment centers, prevention programs and abstinence-only initiatives. In the first five years, the rate of people receiving antiretroviral treatment in sub-Saharan Africa increased forty-fold, from 50,000 to two million. According to a 2009 Stanford University assessment of the efficacy of PEPFAR, between 2004 and 2007 approximately 1.1 million deaths were prevented due to PEPFAR’s activities.
Using PEPFAR’s resources, recipient nations were able to create HIV/AIDS strategies and programs to ensure long-term success. The PEPFAR initiative is widely considered a tremendous success and is currently in its third phase, which aims to focus on the sustainable control of the epidemic.
In addition to improving outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS, George W. Bush’s Africa legacy is also one of peacemaking. In 2011, South Sudan finally became an independent nation after a long and devastating civil war. When President Bush took office in 2001, nearly two million people had died as a result of the decades-long conflict between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. President Bush made Sudan a major focus of foreign policy and early in his first term, he appointed Sen. John Danforth as Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan.
Sen. Danforth helped facilitate negotiations between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the central Sundanese government. On January 9, 2005, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending more than 20 years of civil war. The signing of the agreement was due in large part to the determined efforts by the Bush administration to broker a solution and engage the two sides in productive dialogue.
George W. Bush’s Africa legacy also extends past his time in office. The independent nonprofit Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon was launched in 2011 by the Bush Institute to help save women from cervical and breast cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. The organization partners with other agencies and nonprofits such as PEPFAR and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. According to its website, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon has prevented nearly 35,000 deaths through screenings and vaccinations.
During his tenure, George W. Bush committed more aid to Africa than any other president. With increased assistance and a focused, Africa-centric foreign policy, lives were saved, health outcomes improved and conflict abated. Through PEPFAR and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, the fruits of George W. Bush’s Africa legacy will continue to benefit millions of Africans for generations to come.
– Michael Farquharson