What the U.S. Presidential candidates have said on global health and Africa

Categories: In The Media.

Throughout the presidential elections, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have focused their campaigns on domestic issues within the United States. However, over the course of their campaigns and over the last few years, both candidates have made statements, revealing of their positions on foreign aid priorities, its intersection with global health, U.S. relations with Africa, and the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

The following presents a snapshot of each candidate’s stance on these issues based on media coverage on the campaign trail.

Global Health

  • Obama: “We cannot simply confront individual preventable illnesses in isolation…The world is interconnected, and that demands an integrated approach to global health” (New York Times, May 2009).
  • Romney: “There are three, quite legitimate, objects of our foreign aid. First, to address humanitarian need. Such is the case with the PEPFAR initiative, which has given medical treatment to millions suffering from HIV and AIDS. Second, to foster a substantial United States strategic interest, be it military, diplomatic, or economic. And there is a third purpose, one that will receive more attention and a much higher priority in a Romney Administration. And that is aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and in nations” (Mitt Romney campaign blog, September 2009).

Statements on U.S. relations with Africa

  • Obama: “I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect” (White House, July 2009).
  • Romney: “Africa’s road to stability and prosperity lies through a robust private sector economy, increased trade, and good governance” (Global Public Square blog, November 2012).

The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Africa

  • Obama: “The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is leading prevention efforts and treating over 3.8 million people in Africa, has dramatically decreased HIV infections and improved life expectancy across the continent, and will support over 6 million people with lifesaving treatment by the end of 2013. U.S. malaria and child survival efforts (including investments in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations) are contributing to the historic reductions of child mortality seen in Senegal, Rwanda, Kenya and in other African states” (White House, June 2012).
  • Romney: “We must overcome the challenge of AIDS” (Science Speaks blog, September 2012).

Foreign Aid

  • Obama: “In 2008, mirroring a commitment first made by Obama a year before, the Democratic platform had pledged to double core U.S. foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012. Following the financial meltdown in September 2008, the Obama campaign conceded that the $50 billion target would likely have to be postponed. Core U.S. foreign aid levels now stand at $36 billion, well below Obama’s initial pledge but up 34 percent from fiscal 2008” (DevEx, September 2012).
  • Romney: “Limiting foreign aid spending helps keep taxes lower, which frees more resources in the private and charitable sectors, whose giving tends to be more effective and efficient” (DevEx.com, September 2012). In order to receive U.S. foreign aid, Romney proposes “prosperity pacts,” with receiving governments who must commit to utilise private businesses and enterprise to overcome obstacles within their economy: “In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights” (Los Angeles Times, September 2012).

This article is the first in a two-part series examining the U.S. and its role in promoting public health in Africa.

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