Bush to Announce $200 Million Contribution to Global AIDS Fund, But Money’s Source Unclear
President Bush, appearing alongside U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo, is expected today to announce a $200 million U.S. contribution to the global AIDS fund first proposed last month by Annan, the Washington Post reports. At last month's African AIDS summit in Abuja, Nigeria, Annan called for the establishment of a $7 billion to $10 billion annual trust fund dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS in the developing world. The expected announcement today will mark the first pledge from any nation to the fund, yet it "remained unclear" where the funds would come from, when the money will be made available and what, if any, conditions will be placed on its use, the Post says. U.S. officials reviewing a draft plan for the fund, to be released at a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly next month, have voiced "deep disagreements" with some of the plan's proposals. Among the issues are whether to purchase AIDS medications for Africa or to put "more emphasis" on prevention programs. Administration officials have requested that mentions of sexual abstinence as a means to prevent the disease and clauses calling for the "protection" of drug companies' patent rights be added. Bush is also expected today to issue a "call for an international public-private partnership," whereby governments along with private foundations and corporations will contribute to the fund.
Funding Sources Questioned
The $200 million proposed by Bush "mirrors" the amount added to the "nonbinding" congressional budget resolution this week as part of an amendment proposed by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a former surgeon and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa (DeYoung, Washington Post, 5/11). However, that allotment was "[d]ropped" from the final version of the FY 2002 budget resolution approved by a 53-47 vote yesterday in the Senate (Reuters Health, 5/10). Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking yesterday before a House panel on foreign operations funding, said the government will "use funds that we believe are available from other accounts, not taking away from any of the HIV funding we are doing now, to make a significant new contribution to this new proposal of a trust fund, and do it in a way that will encourage many other nations to join us and many other organizations and private citizens and nongovernmental organizations and kids dropping nickels and dimes in many boxes" (Lake, United Press International/Aegis.com, 5/10). Some worried that the money may be "carved out" of development assistance funds, a prospect that David Beckmann of Bread for the World called "unacceptable." Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the U.N. Development Program, added that it is "absolutely critical that this [comes from] additional resources, not extracted from elsewhere in the U.S. development assistance budget" (Washington Post, 5/11). Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), speaking at the hearing, said that although the "international community," including the World Bank and the United Nations, "seem ready to commit" to a global fund, she "want[ed] to stress that [U.S.] bilateral programs run by [USAID] have been most effective in battling" the HIV/AIDS epidemic abroad (United Press International/Aegis.com, 5/10).
A 'Criminally Small' Amount, Some Say
When news of the impending announcement broke, AIDS advocates and NGOs began criticizing the amount of money earmarked for the fund. "It's criminally small. The United States has got ample money for this and the money has just got to be found -- something along the lines of $2.5 billion," David Bryden of the Global AIDS Alliance said (Jelinek, AP/Orlando Sentinel, 5/11). The GAA estimates that a U.S. contribution "proportionate" to U.S. economic strength would be $3 billion, making Bush's proposed contribution only 6% of what the GAA says a "fair" government donation should be (Global AIDS Alliance release, 5/10). Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) added that the amount "falls far short of what the wealthiest nation in the world should be contributing" (Wall Street Journal, 5/11). The Health GAP Coalition called the amount "less than a drop in the bucket," adding that it equaled less than 1% of the administration's proposed $1.35 trillion tax cut.
Obasanjo and Bush to Discuss AIDS, Economics
Today's announcement was scheduled to coincide with Obasanjo's visit to Washington, marking the first visit by an African head of state to the Bush White House (Washington Post, 5/11). The Nigerian president arrived in Washington yesterday and met with Pentagon officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 5/11). Obasanjo and Bush will meet today in the Oval Office, after the Rose Garden ceremony announcing the trust fund money, to discuss the HIV/AIDS epidemic and economic development issues. Observers say that the visit demonstrates that the Bush administration will not "dismantle the institutional prominence" given to Africa by the Clinton administration. However, they predict that the current administration will focus on "big problems" like AIDS, debt relief and "stabilizing" Nigeria and South Africa, the continent's "two fledgling democracies," a move Timothy Bork of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Africa Initiative called "wise." Experts add that the "person most responsible" for the administration's African focus is Powell, who met with Obasanjo yesterday, following a State Department announcement that Powell will take his first official trip to Africa later this month. He will visit Mali, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, placing a emphasis on the "devastation from AIDS suffered throughout Africa." Powell had planned to attend the Abuja summit last month but, according to USA Today, withdrew because of "anger" from some administration officials that former President Clinton was to give the summit's keynote address (Nichols, USA Today, 5/11).