Call it visual spinach, but PBS remains the one network that devotes itself with gusto to unsexy issues other networks only cover in soundbites. This week’s global-health series takes a disheartening topic and finds a stirring angle, focusing on the historical and present-day individuals and groups that have doggedly set out to eradicate diseases like polio and malaria. There’s no false optimism here—the continuing threat of AIDS and the threat of new diseases like avian flu get their own episodes. But rather than trafficking in titillation and fear, Rx for Survival is designed to inspire. Future Doctors Without Borders volunteers, unite and take over.
Now, the news magazine hosted by David Brancaccio after Bill Moyers’s departure, follows up on Rx for Survival by investigating America’s knotty relationship to AIDS relief. Bush announced his intention to dedicate $15 billion to fight the epidemic internationally, but conservatives in Congress added a loophole: A third of these funds must promote abstinence rather than condoms. Much of this program sifts through the struggle over resources, and the role that ideology plays in muddying the waters of global health.