Last Sunday, The Boston Globe blared the news that Randall Tobias, one of America's most respected leaders in HIV/AIDS prevention, had blown it. He resigned Friday from his prominent role as director of foreign assistance at the Department of State, where he reported directly to Condoleezza Rice, after admitting to having purchased massages from a service alleged to be a prostitution ring.
I met Ambassador Tobias in a church in Rwanda two years ago. He sat facing me in the front pew, flanked by First Lady Laura Bush and a member of the Rwandan Ministry of Health. When an orphaned child sitting behind him found her way onto his hefty knee during the service, he awkwardly smiled and jostled his leg while dozens of news reporters snapped shots of America and Rwanda facing AIDS together. We all hoped we would conquer the pandemic.
Tobias represented all that was good about President Bush's war against HIV/AIDS, promoting abstinence, faithfulness, and faith-based participation in the grassroots struggle against the disease in Africa and around the world. He was America's ambassador for AIDScommissioned to demonstrate the drive for life, not death; the commitment to prevention, not persistent infection; and the generosity of the American government and people to countries crushed by poverty, conflict, and disease.
Tobias listened as Fidel Nsengiyumva rose to the pulpit only a few feet in front of him. "I am an HIV-positive man. My wife has already died of AIDS," began Fidel. "I am part of an association of people living with AIDS that is part of this church. For me, living with AIDS is the path through which God has chosen to use me. It's true, in my blood there is the AIDS virus, but I also have the blood of Jesus. I trust ...1