World Leaders Anxious About Next Administration’s Global AIDS Efforts
Health leaders "from around the world" yesterday "expressed concern" that the United States' current presidential election battle is clouding its future response to the global AIDS pandemic, Newsday reports. Speaking both anonymously and at a U.N. gathering, many leaders stated that success in fighting AIDS around the world was dependent on strong U.S. leadership and financial support. One European diplomat said, "We are watching your Florida vote count on pins and needles. All our efforts and delicate political successes could fall apart overnight if the wrong decisions are made in Washington." The Clinton administration has been widely credited with expanding the United States' role in fighting AIDS, as it has donated more than $1 billion this year to various countries' HIV/AIDS programs and UNAIDS. The administration's efforts, which include Vice President Al Gore chairing the U.N. Security Council special session on AIDS last winter, have resulted in "high" expectations, according to one unnamed U.N. leader. Fulfillment of these expectations, he added, requires a financial commitment: "There is a dangerous gap growing between stated political commitment and implementation of programs. And in the middle of the gap is money. ... If money is not following the politics, we face a serious crisis of confidence and leadership" in the global AIDS fight. U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke acknowledged that the future of the United States' commitment is "uncertain," saying that "policy will have to await decision from the top."
Where Do Political Leaders Stand?
Underlying these concerns is the uncertainty of what an administration led by Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) would mean for the United States' AIDS commitments. Speaking at a U.N. gathering, Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya of Columbia University said that Gore has "struck a ... theme" similar to one employed by the Clinton administration in "convincing India's political leaders to take the epidemic seriously," but noted that Bush is an "unknown commodity." Yesterday, Gore spokesperson Chris Lehane said that the vice president would follow the Clinton administration's AIDS strategies in a "continued and augmented" manner. Bush's transition team did not respond to Newsday's request for an interview. Newsday reports that "Bush has not specifically addressed any aspect of global HIV/AIDS in his speeches or policy papers," but supports funding for an AIDS vaccine and cure. Sandra Thurman, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, noted with "optimism" that former Rep. Roy Porter (R-Ill.) and former CDC director Dr. Bill Roper have been rumored as options for HHS secretary if Bush wins. She said that both have been "very supportive" of the Clinton administration's global AIDS efforts (Garrett, Newsday, 12/1).