HHS Secretary Thompson to Address HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis During Tour of Four African NationsHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson departed Sunday for a week-long tour of four African nations, according to an HHS release. Thompson will visit Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Ivory Coast to "strengthen partnerships and continue dialogue on strategies to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis on the continent" (HHS release, 3/29). "The scourge of AIDS threatens to destroy economies, social systems and the very fabric of local communities," Thompson said, adding, "There is no question that as a country, the United States must engage with other nations across all sectors to fight the most devastating public health pandemics of the modern age." During the trip, Thompson and other White House officials will tour facilities that offer counseling, testing and prevention services. Thompson will also meet with each country's health minister to discuss new ways to fight the epidemics, particularly the use of disease surveillance systems to track and analyze outbreaks (Newton, AP/Nando Times, 3/29). He will also discuss methods of strengthening and expanding biomedical research and training efforts in the four countries. Thompson plans to solidify several new initiatives during the trip, including a memorandum of understanding with Mozambique Health Minister Francisco Songane that will support collaborative efforts to strengthen the country's HIV surveillance systems. In addition, Thompson will sign an agreement that will allow HHS to provide nearly $1 million in funding to strengthen the capacity of South African trade unions to implement effective HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs. While in South Africa, Thompson will announce the appointment of F. Gray Handley as the first-ever U.S. health attache in Africa (HHS release, 3/29).
AIDS Group Says Lack of Funding Weakens African Trip
The Global AIDS Alliance criticized Thompson's African tour plans, stating that the Bush administration's failure to fund global HIV/AIDS programs means that Thompson is "going empty-handed" to the continent. "It is shameful that Secretary Thompson carry out a 'study tour' when proven AIDS programs remain grossly underfunded in Bush budget proposals. It is equally an outrage that access to lifesaving triple drug therapy is repeatedly blocked by the U.S. government," Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Dr. Paul Zeitz said. The Global AIDS Alliance and other AIDS groups are planning a rally on April 10 in Washington, D.C., to call on the U.S. government to make an annual commitment of $2.5 billion to fight AIDS internationally (Global AIDS Alliance release, 3/30).
Caribbean Trip Planned
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell may join Thompson at a conference next month addressing U.S. participation in fighting HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The conference will be held in Guyana and will include health ministers from 20 Caribbean nations, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada and a dozen international organizations. UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot is also expected to attend. The conference begins April 20. As part of its Third Border Initiative, the United States has pledged $20 million to help fight HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean. This total represents a threefold increase in assistance in the last two years (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/30).