Activists Hail President's Call for More Funding to Fight AIDS
January 29, 2003
President Bush's State of the Union call for Congress to commit $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa appears to herald a major increase in Washington's spending on the epidemic. Even some of Bush's toughest critics last night hailed his emphasis on providing drugs to HIV-infected people. But details on how the money would be used are sketchy, and only about one-tenth of the money would go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.Adapted from:
"There are a lot of unanswered questions, but from what we can tell, this seems very, very positive," said Thomas Hart, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church. While voicing concern that the money might not come quickly enough, Hart said, "The overall figure is very important, and talking about providing low-cost [AIDS] drugs is a major, very positive shift" for the White House.
Bush said the $15 billion he proposes to spend over five years to fight AIDS in Africa would include "nearly $10 billion in new money." If approved by Congress, that would roughly triple U.S. outlays over projected levels. The current U.S. budget for all domestic and foreign AIDS treatment and prevention programs is a bit more than $1 billion annually. Under Bush's proposal, outlays would nearly double, to $2 billion, in fiscal 2004, "and ramp up thereafter," according to a White House fact sheet.
The $10 billion in new money would include about $1 billion for the Global Fund. Richard Feachem, its executive director, has urged the United States to contribute $2.5 billion to $3 billion over the next two years. So far, Washington has committed $500 million over two years. Activists voiced disappointment that Bush seemed to be giving short shrift to the fund, which Paul Davis, director of U.S. government relations for Health GAP, called "the single most effective tool we have in this effort." But even Davis -- who noted he had recently been arrested in an AIDS protest outside the White House -- said, "Tonight, we applaud the president for acting to address the plague of AIDS in Africa, and we are particularly encouraged by his focus on getting treatment for 2 million people."
"The president's announcement tonight is a tremendously encouraging sign that he is taking this issue seriously, not just on a rhetorical level, but in terms of the budget," said Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Paul Zeitz. "We are especially delighted he so clearly recognized the urgent need for cost-effective AIDS treatment."
01.29.03; Paul Blustein
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.