Senators Feingold and Durbin Say Africans Question AIDS Commitment
February 26, 2003
Returning from a weeklong trip to South Africa and Botswana, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said many Africans are worried that the United States will not come through on its $15 billion commitment to fight AIDS. "There is concern in Africa that the United States, engaging in a war in the Middle East, will not have the resources to deal with other problems in the world, including AIDS," said Durbin. Last month in his State of the Union speech, President Bush called on Congress to budget $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.Adapted from:
"I told them I thought President Bush's promise is good," Durbin said. "We want to make certain we keep that promise." Feingold, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, said Bush raised expectations in Africa with the pledge. "The people of southern Africa are very aware that the president has made this significant new commitment," he said. "They are trying to figure out whether it's really going to come, and to figure out how it's going to be used."
The two senators met with government leaders, health officials, counselors and others to get a sense of the AIDS epidemic in southern Africa on the trip. They also discussed terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, the diamond trade and land reform with officials.
Feingold said he would push for more money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria because it can leverage matching donations from other countries. President Bush proposes $1 billion for the fund. Feingold said he also wants to ensure that money goes to treatment as well as prevention. Durbin said he would focus on efforts that ensure there are enough doctors in Africa. "That might mean more money for medical schools, training in the United States, and incentives for doctors to stay in their native countries," said Durbin.
02.25.03; Frederic J. Frommer