Sens. Frist, Kerry to Head New Bipartisan AIDS Task Force to Address U.S. Involvement in Global Fight
Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced yesterday that they will lead a new bipartisan task force to "expand U.S. leadership" in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the Nashville Tennessean reports. The task force will be based in Washington, D.C., at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a non-partisan public policy organization, and will include members of Congress, White House and United Nations representatives and "civic, public health and business leaders." According to Kerry and Frist, "AIDS is a national security matter but ... focus on the problem has waned" since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Frist added that three Senate hearings on HIV/AIDS were canceled, "as Congress became preoccupied with terrorism." The Tennessean reports that the group's mission will be to "build bipartisan consensus," focusing on objectives that define U.S. interests and policy goals relating to HIV/AIDS, "identify the right balance" between prevention and care efforts and develop partnerships in "hard-hit countries." The task force will also oversee and coordinate U.S. and other donor contributions to the worldwide effort and identify "policy initiatives that balance intellectual property-rights concerns of drug companies with humanitarian needs in impoverished countries." Former Sen. Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.), president of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, contributions to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis have "fallen significantly," with only $2,000 collected since the attacks. To help develop legislation authorizing a three- to five-year plan, the task force will begin holding hearings in January (Bivins, Nashville Tennessean, 11/14). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the press conference announcing the task force is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.