In fact, there are very few Americans around who even associate him with his achievement. Who’s this great humanitarian? The name might surprise you: it’s George W. Bush.

I should say, right up front, that I do not belong to the former president’s political camp. I strongly disapproved of many of his policies. At the same time, I think it’s a tragedy that the foreign policy shortcomings of the Bush administration have conspired to obscure his most positive legacy — not least because it saved so many lives, but because there’s so much that Americans and the rest of the world can learn from it. Both his detractors and supporters tend to view his time in office through the lens of the “war on terror” and the policies that grew out of it. By contrast, only a few Americans have ever heard of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush announced in his State of the Union address in 2003. …

In his 2003 speech, President Bush called upon Congress to sponsor an ambitious program to supply antiretroviral drugs and other treatments to HIV sufferers in Africa. Since then, the U.S. government has spent some $44 billion on the project (a figure that includes $7 billion contributed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, a multilateral organization). By way of comparison, America’s most recent aircraft carrier — which will join the 10 we currently have in service — is set to cost $26.8 billion. One medical expert calls PEPFAR the “largest financial commitment of any country to global health and to treatment of any specific disease worldwide.”