Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Clinton gets people to care about AIDS
Over the past several years, Bill Clinton has been crafting his post-presidency initiatives. I always thought that would be an amazing thing to think about. After retiring as "leader of the free world," you get to set your sights on just about anything, presumably things that fascinated you most as president, and areas where you feel you can make a difference. He chose two health-care related areas for much of his focus - AIDS and childhood obesity. He told me he chose obesity because of his own struggles with weight, especially as a child. Also, because the obesity epidemic threatens, for the first time ever, to turn back our steadily progressing life span. Stunning.
Yesterday, the former president gave me an exclusive interview to talk about AIDS and a sprinkle of current presidential politics. The success of the foundation has been pretty concrete, by just about anyone's standards. In a day where AIDS achievements are measured by advocacy groups with the loudest voice, the Clinton Foundation has been instead busy negotiating lower drug prices. Thanks in large part to its efforts, those prices are now less than a dollar a day, admittedly still expensive in an area of the world where the per capita income on averages around $800 a year, but still cheaper than ever. Also, the pills are a once daily, very effective medication that offers the real possibility of a normal length of life. President Clinton seemed genuinely pleased with the achievement and was already planning trips back to Africa this summer.
As far as presidential politics go though, the success of Hillary Clinton could truly be a case of good news/bad news for the Clinton foundation. Certainly, as "first gentleman," the former president would be in a position to do many of the things Mrs. Clinton worked on as first lady. Still, it would to some extent take him away from what he has called his life's work, AIDS.
One thing former President Clinton has done is he has kept AIDS squarely in the public eye. Even at a time when our attention has been focused on a million other things, his steady voice still reminds us that HIV/AIDS remains one of the biggest killers in the world. Still, even he has a hard time getting people in the United States to care.
If you had a few minutes with Bill Clinton, what strategies would you offer him to get and keep people engaged on the issue of AIDS?
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