Senate Approves Additional $700 Million Over Two Years to Fight HIV/AIDS in Developing Nations
The Senate passed by voice vote yesterday an amendment to the budget proposal that would allocate an additional $700 million over the next two years to fight HIV/AIDS in developing nations, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The measure would boost total U.S. funding for international HIV/AIDS efforts to $1.1 billion by 2003, with the "bulk" of the new funding going to countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have "developed clear plans to combat the epidemic" (Collins/Warner, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/6). The amendment calls for increases of $200 million in fiscal year 2002 and $500 million in FY 2003, with the new funding to be taken from the budget surplus. This year's budget for international AIDS initiatives is about $460 million, but the House has made "[s]imilar calls for doubling AIDS spending," the Washington Post reports (DeYoung, Washington Post, 4/6). A spokesperson from the State Department declined to comment on the funding increase, but said that the Bush administration plans to "propose an increase in spending on the global epidemic in its 2002 budget," with details to be disclosed later this month (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/6). Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked for a 10% increase in the department's global AIDS funding (Washington Post, 4/6).
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), would place foreign aid for HIV/AIDS into an "international fund," which would also contain contributions from other developed nations, private foundations and "possibly even private corporations," the Inquirer reports. The money in the fund, which would be overseen by international monitors, would go toward the bulk purchasing of antiretroviral drugs "at greatly discounted prices." The proposal "does not specify" how much of the new funding will go toward purchasing AIDS drugs, but Frist added that "drugs alone are not enough," and called for the expansion of HIV prevention programs and a greater number of medical clinics and staff. Frist, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs, said, "Americans have always been among the first to tackle the most difficult challenges of the times. We must do no less when confronted with perhaps the worst international health crisis since the bubonic plague ravaged Europe 600 years ago." He added that community-based organizations in Africa are likely to be the "linchpin of success" in fighting the epidemic. The United States currently spends about $260 million annually to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/6). The spending increase will bring the country "a considerable distance toward meeting its part" of the United Nations' recommendation of $3 billion to $5 billion from wealthy nations to fight the spread of the disease in Africa (Washington Post, 4/6). Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, however, said that the proposed spending increases are "not enough." On Wednesday, Sachs outlined a plan, supported by United Nations agencies, that calls for the United States to provide $1.5 billion per year "immediately," with that contribution rising to $3.3 billion per year over three years (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/6).