Annan Meets With U.S. Officials to Discuss AIDS Trust Fund
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday met with various U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss increasing the United States' contribution to a proposed $7 billion to $10 billion global fund to fight HIV/AIDS, the New York Times reports. Annan met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, "[a]gainst a background of rising anger in Congress" over recent votes that left the United States off of the U.N.'s Human Rights Commission and International Narcotics Control Board. Despite speculation that the recent votes would affect the talks, no topics other than HIV/AIDS were discussed during the meetings, according to deputy U.N. spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva. After the meeting, Powell told reporters that the discussion had been "excellent." Annan was invited to return to Washington on Friday, when President Bush is expected to announce a $200 million pledge to the proposed fund. The United States may provide additional funding if the United Nations can meet "certain criteria for establishing the fund" and if other industrialized nations contribute, an administration official said (Crosette/Sanger, New York Times, 5/10). The initial $200 million pledge is well below the amount proposed by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in an amendment to the Senate Budget bill. That amendment calls for an increase of $200 million in FY 2002 and $500 million in FY 2003 above the $460 million the United States already spends on global AIDS efforts, bringing the U.S. total contribution to $1.1 billion over two years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/6). Annan also met yesterday with Frist, who is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa. Although the United States annually contributes less than half of what Frist proposed, it remains the world's largest contributor to global AIDS efforts. In March, Frist commissioned a General Accounting Office study of USAID's African HIV/AIDS assistance that showed that the agency was having "problems" with distributing aid, particularly to African military personnel, 10% to 60% of whom are estimated to be HIV-positive. Congressional restrictions limit aid to foreign militaries, acting as a "disincentive" to "pursuing prevention campaigns where they might be most needed," the Times reports (New York Times, 5/10).
Showdown Over 'Unexpected Votes'
Observers say it is "hard to judge what effect" the United States' exclusion from the U.N. committees, which have always had U.S. representation, will have on funding for Annan's proposed HIV/AIDS trust. Before leaving New York for Washington yesterday morning, Annan told a group of senior U.N. officials that he was "concerned" about congressional calls for retribution against the U.N. and "recognized" the United States' "significant contributions" to the Human Rights Commission since its founding in 1947. Officials at the United Nations added that Annan "regrets the unexpected votes" and hopes the United States will be voted back onto the Human Rights Commission next spring (Omaha World-Herald, 5/9). Powell said Tuesday that Annan was "as distressed as we are" about the votes (New York Times, 5/10).