Today is World AIDS Day, and in honor of the event, 30 Rock star Cheyenne Jackson, designer Kenneth Cole, and Project Runway runner-up Mondo Guerra were let lose on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. They were there to ring the opening bell on behalf of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. (If you think this particular tableau is a little gay, you should have seen it when they got up to ring the bell ... with Liza Minnelli.) There's been some good news on the HIV/AIDS front this past week — a drug that is used to treat infected patients was proven to be up to 73 percent effective in actually preventing infection when taken regularly by gay and bisexual men.
But President Obama has met with criticism for not increasing quickly enough the amount of money the United States spends on PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief started by George Bush in 2003. During the election, Obama promised to raise contributions to PEPFAR by $1 billion a year, but this year the United States upped our contribution by barely a third of that. Today, President Bush, who counted the fight against HIV/AIDS among the causes most important to him, had an editorial in the Washington Post that included a message for members of Congress (and, implicitly, Obama too) who might be resistant to upping HIV/AIDS outlay. The advice is uncharacteristic of the former president, who has largely steered clear of policy statements since he left office:
I am happily out of the political business. But I can offer some friendly advice to members of Congress, new and old. A thousand pressing issues come with each day. But there are only a few that you will want to talk about in retirement with your children. The continuing fight against global AIDS is something for which America will be remembered. And you will never regret the part you take.