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Republican Presidential Candidate Santorum Could Be Beneficial To Global Health Programs If Elected President

In the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), “the most religiously conservative candidate, surprisingly, is the most fervent advocate for U.S. global health diplomacy,” Jack Chow, former U.S. ambassador on global HIV/AIDS and former assistant director-general of WHO on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, writes in a Foreign Policy opinion piece. “Santorum has staked out global health as one of his preferred instruments of asserting American power abroad” and “seems determined to lay the groundwork for a global health agenda that is not only far more extensive than his competitors’, but would surpass both [George W.] Bush and Barack Obama in advancing U.S. interests abroad through fighting disease,” Chow writes.

“Santorum’s willingness to work actively against AIDS and poverty has won plaudits from those who might otherwise be his political detractors,” but as a “firm believer in banning abortions,” “Santorum risks incurring opposition from organizations and donors that believe in pro-choice policies, entangling entities like the Global Fund in battles over such restrictive provisions,” Chow says. He also notes Santorum “has expressed strong antipathy” toward USAID and the U.N., and “might also extend the requirement by Bush to allocate one-third of prevention funds in global health programs to the strategy of abstinence and disallow the exchange of needles and syringes to drug users in HIV/AIDS prevention programs.” However, Chow concludes, “Santorum, if elected president, could depart from conservative orthodoxy by centering U.S. foreign policy on prescribing global health as a potent form of ‘soft power’ statecraft. And he could save millions of lives in the process” (2/28).