NIAID Director Anthony Fauci Discusses AIDS Pandemic on NPR’s ‘Diane Rehm Show’Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, yesterday answered a variety of questions about the AIDS pandemic in the first hour of NPR's "Diane Rehm Show." Fauci, who recently accompanied HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on a week-long tour of four African nations, said, "It was a wonderful trip in many respects ... very sobering for what we saw there." Fauci said that he and Thompson went on the "fact-finding" trip to Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Ivory Coast to "see first-hand the extent, the depth and breadth of the problem" and to understand how the African countries "depend" on U.S. health agencies' funding for HIV/AIDS programs. According to Fauci, Thompson feels "very passionately about our responsibility to help out Africa," particularly in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, and the trip allowed Thompson to "strengthen his own personal resolve" to the issue. Fauci said that some governments are making "serious, positive attempts" to fight the disease. For example, he praised Bostwanan President Festus Mogae for taking a "personal interest" in changing the situation in that country, which has "horrifying" and "beyond staggering" rates of HIV infection, with 38% of the adult population infected with virus (Rehm, "Diane Rehm Show," NPR, 4/10). Mogae announced government plans on Tuesday to move ahead with an nationwide antiretroviral drug distribution program, the first in Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/10). Fauci also discussed the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research, the nation's top medical award, which he received last month for his work with HIV/AIDS, bioterrorist agents and other infectious diseases. The $500,000 award is the second-largest medical prize in the world behind the Nobel Prize and was created in 2000 with a $50 million grant by New York City philanthropist Morris Silverman (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/28). Fauci said that receiving the award was a "total surprise," "quite humbling" and a "real honor." He did not comment on how he will use the award money.
The NIH Position
Fauci also discussed the February announcement from an unidentified Bush administration official that he would not be named NIH director because of administrative and political issues, including his unknown stance on abortion rights (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/19). Fauci said he "could not comment" on the "speculation" that there was "opposition" to his candidacy because he had "expressed support" for fetal tissue research. He added that he "did not want to give up" his current position as NIAID director, as he felt he could do both. "Quite understandably there was some reluctance to have me do both, and I respect and accept that," Fauci said. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Rehm, "Diane Rehm Show," NPR, 4/10).