U.S. President Bush Aides Defend AIDS Policies From Council Criticism
March 15, 2002
Several of President Bush's top health advisers defended the administration's AIDS policies yesterday, countering criticism that tight budgets and a greater emphasis on abstinence-only programs will be insufficient weapons against the deadly disease.Adapted from:
At the first gathering of the 34-member Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that he felt fortunate to have secured extra money for research and held on to current funding level for prevention and treatment of AIDS. "You don't know how hard I had to fight to get flat funding," he said. "The priorities are the international war and homeland security."
Council member Caya Lewis admonished the administration for shortchanging AIDS treatment, pointing out that treatment program funding has not paralleled the spread of the disease. In the past 12 months, 50,000 new cases of HIV infection were diagnosed, 70 percent of which occurred among minorities. "I am deeply concerned about the lack of emphasis on prevention in this administration," said Lewis, a manager at the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.
Stuart Burden, a council member and a Levi Strauss & Co. executive, said he was upset the administration has promised $500 million for a global AIDS fund estimated to need $7 billion to $10 billion. "There is a belief in the international community, given the size of our economy, that the United States has not done enough," he said. "What more are you prepared to recommend?"
Thompson noted that the US commitment represents 25 percent of the $2 billion in pledges so far. "When the US pays one-quarter of the amount, that's a tremendous and generous contribution," he said.
Overall the administration plans to dedicate $12.9 billion for HIV/AIDS for 2003, a $900 million increase over this year, according to Thompson. But most of the increase would be spent on research at the National Institutes of Health.
Thompson's plan for a management review of all federally funded HIV programs has caused some uneasiness among advocates, who fear the review will be the first step toward trimming their budgets and redirecting money. But Joe O'Neill, acting director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, said he only agreed to conduct the review because he believes the goal is to improve the government's effort. "I know there's a lot of concern this review will be either a whitewash or a witch-hunt," he said. "I want to put your minds at rest; the interest here is in doing a better job, not doing damage to the programs."
For a time, it appeared the council would die in the new administration. Early on, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. suggested the council and the Office of National AIDS Policy were unnecessary.
03.15.02; Ceci Connolly
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.