RONALD DELLUMS: ‘Loudmouth Activist’ Fighting for Africa
Ronald Dellums, the chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, said in a Sunday Los Angeles Times interview that his mission is "to get across my view that AIDS is clearly a global pandemic." Dellums was appointed to his post in March and has since advocated "massive, strategic AIDS funding around the world, especially in Africa." He was instrumental in the fight to win congressional approval of the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000, which President Clinton signed on Saturday. Dellums was planning to retire after having served 28 years in the U.S. House, but he said, "I felt what was needed was a loudmouth activist to try to help make this country and the world uncomfortable with what's happening in Africa." Some highlights from the interview:
- Commenting on the prospect of AIDS rates increasing globally, he said, "So many people have lulled themselves into a sense of complacency, that [people think] we've gotten our hands around this issue. But nothing can be farther from the truth."
- Calling AIDS more than just a health issue, Dellums said, "It's an infrastructure issue ... [which] has the capacity to topple governments, to bring down economies, to bring a level of destabilization that's extraordinary."
- Dellums favors debt relief for African countries, which could use the $31 billion they pay annually in debt service to "begin to build education and health care infrastructures, allowing them to better address the problem of AIDS."
- On the issue of a proposed $1 billion loan through the U.S. Export-Import bank to African nations, he favors a straight-out grant. He said, "When we're talking about life and death at this level, I think this is a small price to pay for the preservation of humanity."
- As for AIDS in the United States, Dellums said, "We've got to get rid of this conspiracy of silence, this denial and begin to talk about the issue loud enough and in tones that fit the reality of the problem. ... With the U.S. presidential election taking place, we need to step up and say, 'All right, we want to see both parties make a commitment to deal with this issue'" (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 8/20).