Students Lobby Sen. John Kerry, ‘Demanding’ $2.5B U.S. Contribution to Global AIDS Fund
The Cambridge, Mass.-based Student Global AIDS Campaign, a network of students from more than 200 universities and high schools who are committed to fighting HIV/AIDS, on Thursday hand-delivered a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and "jammed phone lines" at Kerry's Washington, D.C., office 'demand[ing]' that he propose a contribution of at least $2.5 billion in legislation he is soon expected to introduce regarding the U.S. donation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Harvard Crimson reports. The students, who rationalized that the United States should contribute 25% of the fund's $10 billion target because the country accounts for one quarter of the world's GDP, also met with Kerry senior aide Roger Fiske to convey their belief that any appropriation less than that amount would be "far too low." "Sen. Kerry now has the opportunity to make battling this pandemic a U.S. priority," SGAC member Danae McElroy, a Wellesley College student, said, adding, "Underfunding the fight against HIV (and) AIDS would be tantamount to destroying the millions of lives that could be saved."
Fiske told the students that "[w]hen you look at the landscape of Congress, you have to accept that you're not going to get everything you want." However, Benjamin Wikler, SGAC co-founder and a student at Harvard University, disagreed, saying that when SGAC visited 45 members of Congress last week, staffers indicated that they "would support whatever number Kerry proposed." According to SGAC officer Amanda Alexander, also a Harvard student, Kerry's staff "seemed very receptive but kept reiterating that they were in a very tight spot." Kerry spokesperson Kelly Benander said that Kerry's office does not "want to give any ballpark figures [for the amount of proposed funding] that might keep the bill from moving forward." Wikler said that Kerry's leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS could be called into question. "If Kerry doesn't put $2.5 billion into this legislation, he's not going to be the global AIDS leader anymore," Wikler said (Weisbard, Harvard Crimson, 3/21).