Thompson Vows U.S. Commitment to Fighting AIDSHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday affirmed the Bush administration's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS, in a speech at a Kaiser Family Foundation- and Ford Foundation-sponsored forum titled "U.S. AIDS Policy: Entering the Third Decade." Thompson said, "We must remain on the offensive in the war against HIV and AIDS." Thompson said the administration has proposed a 7.2% increase in the federal health department's funding of AIDS prevention, research and treatment to $10.2 billion, USA Today reports. The budget also would allocate $357 million for AIDS vaccine research, 27% more than last year. Thompson said, "Make no mistake, this administration is making substantial financial investments in the battle against AIDS." But in a separate interview with USA Today he noted that the government has no plans to overturn the ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs and "made no mention" of the administration's decision not to ask Congress to increase funding for the Ryan White CARE Act (Sternberg, USA Today, 6/6). The Bush administration has been criticized for neglecting U.S. treatment programs by focusing support on global AIDS efforts, but Thompson vowed support of local as well as international groups, saying, "We are not going to ignore where AIDS is moving" (McQueen, Associated Press, 6/5). Others who spoke at the symposium include those listed below:
- Surgeon General David Satcher spoke of his soon-to-be-released "call-to-action" report on the nation's sexual health and its implications on HIV/AIDS. Satcher said, "This call to action focuses on the need to promote sexual health and responsible sexual behavior throughout the lifespan. While sexuality may be difficult for some to discuss ... we cannot afford the consequences of continuing selective silence" (Ornstein, Dallas Morning News, 6/6).
- Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) announced that he will soon introduce a bill to supply the $200 million President Bush proposed for the global AIDS fund, saying, "The separation between domestic and international targets is one that some people will continue to underscore, but I and the legislation I bring forth will try to be very supportive of both" (Associated Press, 6/5).
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said of a potential vaccine for the disease, "We're now well on the way toward developing an HIV vaccine. It's certainly going to be several years. ... We still have not proven that the body is capable immunologically of controlling HIV" (Dunham, Reuters, 6/6).