Posted on August 26, 2006


Tainted And Stained

The Clinton Legacy and HIV


Daniel Clark


At this year's International AIDS Conference, former president Bill Clinton fielded criticisms that he had not "done enough" about the HIV virus. In activist-speak, this means that he didn't throw enough of American taxpayers' money at the problem. Of all the criticism that could have been leveled against him, this is the most absurd. During Clinton's last year in office, the U.S. government spent $12.2 billion to fight AIDS. If it were possible to simply spend the disease out of existence, we would have done it long ago.

Bubba's 'done enough'... and then some!

If attendees of the conference wanted to challenge the former president, they'd have done better to examine the quality of his efforts, and not the quantity. If they did, they might wonder why they'd even invited him to speak in the first place. Consider the following:

* As governor of Arkansas, Clinton presided over the sale of blood plasma that was drawn from state prison inmates. The sale of prisoners' blood was by then illegal within the United States because of the emerging threat of AIDS. However, the contractor that Clinton had hired to administer the program found a buyer in Canada. The blood was eventually distributed to hemophiliacs by the Canadian Red Cross, which last year pled guilty for not having properly tested it. The program is estimated to have infected 1,000 Canadians with HIV, and another 20,000 with hepatitis C.

* During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton promised to lift the prohibition against people with the HIV virus emigrating to the United States. Nevertheless, he signed a bill the following year affirming that HIV met the definition of a "communicable disease of public health significance" under immigration law. However, he reversed himself again in 1996, when he directed the Immigration and Nationalization Service to consider victims of the HIV virus to be eligible, nonsensically, for political asylum.

* In addition, Clinton almost completely abandoned drug enforcement during his first term as president, when he slashed funding and personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Rates of drug interdiction and prosecution of drug dealers both declined sharply.

* For his first surgeon general, he picked Joycelyn Elders. As director of the Arkansas Department of Health, to which Clinton had also appointed her, Dr. Elders knowingly distributed defective condoms to public schools, because she feared that the reputation of condoms would suffer from the publicity of a recall.

* When it came time for Clinton to appoint Elders' replacement, he selected Dr. David Satcher. As director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Satcher had overseen, and later defended, an experiment that was so unethical that if it were done in the United States, it would have been illegal. The purpose of this third-world study was to see if the anti-AIDS drug AZT could reduce a pregnant woman's chances of passing the HIV virus on to her baby. Although the researchers already understood AZT to be an effective drug, they administered placebos to some of the women. This is a direct violation of the Nuremburg Code of medical ethics, which stipulates that "preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death."

medical ethics, Satcher style

* Clinton also appointed Dr. Kristine Gebbie to be America's "AIDS czar." Leave it to the first presidential administration from the "free love" generation to blame a sexually transmitted disease on sexual inhibition, especially where minors are concerned. "Unless Americans embrace sex as an essentially important and pleasurable thing," she lectured, "we will continue to be a repressed, Victorian society that misrepresents information, denies sexuality early, denies homosexuality, particularly in teens, and leaves people abandoned with no place to go." Some anti-AIDS message that is: Sex is fun, kids, so feel free to experiment.

It should come as no surprise that Clinton handled the issue so irresponsibly in office, since that's the way he conducts his whole life. Suffice it to say, he didn't acquire his "distinguishing characteristic" by bobbing for apples. The only way he can be of any use to the cause of AIDS prevention is to serve as a model of how not to behave, kind of like the Goofus character in Highlights magazine.

Rather that hold Clinton accountable for the many actual victims of his policies, the activists only complain that he hasn't contributed enough of our money to the cause. It's enough to make one wonder whether they are any more trustworthy than he is.

-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.




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