Bush Administration Joins Global Pledge to Boost AIDS Funding for Developing Countries
The United States has agreed to contribute to a global fund to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the developing world, the Wall Street Journal reports. Bush administration officials have signed on to a "multilateral statement" -- to be released today during the conclusion of the semiannual World Bank/IMF meeting -- that calls on wealthy nations to "pledge contributions" to a global fund "around the time of a U.N. special AIDS meeting in June." (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 4/30). The plan was drawn up this weekend during the World Bank/IMF spring meetings, at which global leaders focused on the AIDS epidemic in developing countries (Kahn, Washington Post, 4/29). An "advanced draft" of the agreement notes the "need for a substantial increase in global resources, including through a possible health and HIV/AIDS multilateral trust fund, for HIV-related analysis, research and action programs," and calls for governments attending the U.N. meeting to "make concrete commitments to produce a rapid intensification of global action on HIV/AIDS" (Wall Street Journal, 4/30). In signing the agreement, the United States joins France, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other countries. The Washington Post reported yesterday that the United States was hesitant to sign on to the global plan, raising "several red flags," including concerns that Africa "lacked the basic medical and physical infrastructure" to effectively distribute complex AIDS drugs to HIV-positive patients and that Africans "lacked a requisite 'concept of time'" and thus would be unable to adhere to drug regimens that are administered on "tight time schedules" (Washington Post, 4/29). The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Bush administration agreed to commit to the fund amidst "mounting international pressure." However, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said at the gathering of G7 economic officials this weekend that before administration officials make a "specific financial pledge," the funding agreement should address "complexities" such as the "poor state of health facilities in Africa and the enormous difficulty in providing complex drug treatments to poor people." O'Neill said, "If we're really going to make a difference with all this well-intentioned work, it needs to be done not in a way that salves the conscience of those who are better off. It needs to be done with a full understanding of what it means to accomplish meaningful change in the lives of real people. This is not an easy thing to do."
Additional Funding Promised
The Journal reports that the World Bank plans to "double its pledge" of $500 million toward AIDS funding and would "likely administer the global fund on behalf of its 182 member nations" (Wall Street Journal, 4/30). World Bank and U.N. officials said that current AIDS funding levels are "woefully inadequate," and World Bank President James Wolfensohn said $3 billion to $4 billion a year is needed to start an "effective AIDS prevention and treatment program in Africa" (Washington Post, 4/30). The Bush administration is also considering legislation scripted by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) that would "double AIDS-related foreign assistance over the next two years to $1 billion annually" (Wall Street Journal, 4/30).
Protest over Debt Relief
About 200 protesters gathered as the IMF/World Bank meetings drew to a close, demanding that financial institutions "work to erase poor countries' debts," the Associated Press reports (Dunphy, Associated Press, 4/30). Njongonkulu Ndugane, Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa, said, "It is morally reprehensible for the developed world to continue to demand repayment when we have a crisis on the continent of Africa. One hundred percent cancellation is nonnegotiable" (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/28). However, World Bank and IMF policy makers said that the "fight against poverty" should move beyond "simple debt reduction to better government and access to trade," noting, "Debt sustainablility can only be achieved and maintained if the underlying causes of the debt problem are addressed" (Agence France-Presse, 4/30).
Funding for Prevention or Treatment?
NPR's "Diane Rehm Show" today will host Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, to discuss whether the global fight against HIV/AIDS should focus on prevention of the disease or drug access and treatment issues. Guest host Susan Page will lead the discussion beginning at 10 a.m. EST.