By Zackie Achmat
(source: Writing Rights)
What is President Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel and his brother Zeke Emanuel up to in Africa and South Africa? When people in the United States elected Barack Obama their President, it symbolised historic change in the US and elsewhere. The most important global expectations placed on the Obama administration included starting to mend the imperial legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and to help save lives. Obama inherited a destroyed local and global economy, an environmental crisis, the deepest social inequalities in US society, the largest recorded budget deficit, global disgust and fear based on the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He cannot fix these in a day or a decade.
These wars were not simply neo-conservative over-reach that destroyed the US image abroad; increased its public debt to hasten the collapse of banks; lined the pockets of the Bush-Cheney war and oil companies; undermined international law; they were all these and more. The Bush Wars attacked the most fundamental right of all — the right to a dignified life. Foremost among its victims are the countless households in Iraq and Afghanistan that were destroyed through bullets, disease, sectarian strife, bombs, torture, imprisonment and neglect. He also blighted the lives of US soldiers and their families.
George Bush did one good thing during his terms as President. He established the Presidential Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. Together with the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM), the Bush initiative PEPFAR helped save at least four million lives across the world. The programs were the result of local and global activism based on the right to a dignified life. While blighting the lives of millions of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and the soldiers of the US, PEPFAR helped save lives. Now, this programme is under threat. Winstone Zulu, a courageous Zambian man who lives with HIV sent this message: “Today I met my sister-in-law who was tested under Pepfar programs and used to get drugs three months up-front and was only given for a month last Friday. When she asked why, she was told that she should be grateful she got anything at all. She was told that next month she may not get anything.” This testimony is the tip of the iceberg. PEPFAR and the Global Fund are indispensable to millions of people whose lives depend on sharing the responsibility for health across the world. The Obama administration advised by Dr. Zeke Emannuel (brother of Rahm Emmanuel) has decided to flatline read PEPFAR funding. Zeke Emmanuel loudly proclaims that these countries must “take care of themselves” and specifically names South Africa in this regard. This intervention is not begging for special treatment for Africa, South Africa or even HIV — it unequivocally condemns the $700 billion spent on war while cutting social programs in the US and abroad. HIV, global public health and development spending is a necessary investment for global freedom, peace and security. I continue to support President Barack Obama but as a supporter, I believe that if he follows the path of Zeke Emmanuel his administration will entrench the practice that the right to life is meaningless and that US administration remains a cruel, fading empire that cannot be trusted. President Obama will you help save the life of Winstone Zulu’s sister-in-law and countless other people living with HIV. We demand an answer.
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