‘Diverse’ Group of U.S. Senators to Announce Legislation to Significantly Increase International AIDS Spending
A "politically diverse" coalition of U.S. senators led by John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) today will introduce legislation that would increase U.S. spending on international HIV/AIDS efforts by more than $1 billion this year, the Boston Globe reports. The bill would more than double the government's current financial commitment to fighting the disease abroad and would increase the amount to more than $2 billion per year in subsequent years. In addition, the bill also would require the government to create a five-year plan to "significantly reduce the spread of AIDS around the world" and would provide new funding for the procurement of drugs, vaccine research and HIV/AIDS education. "This is the broadest and most comprehensive approach to AIDS that has been put together since the subject has come up," Kerry said, adding that the legislation is "truly bipartisan." Co-author Frist said it "has been a struggle to get the attention" of other senators and the public, but he and Kerry have been able to amass support from a wide range of legislators. The "most crucial support" comes from Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a long-time opponent of foreign aid who was recently swayed to take action on vertical HIV transmission in Africa after talks with Irish rock star Bono, a leading proponent of debt relief and humanitarian assistance. In a March op-ed in the Washington Post, Helms said that "like the Samaritan traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, we cannot turn away when we see our fellow man in need." Helms, who is recovering from heart surgery in a Virginia hospital, will not attend today's press conference, but has signed on to support the bill, according to spokesperson Lester Munson. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said that President Bush has not yet seen the proposal and therefore could not comment on it, but he added that Bush, who has requested an increase of $115 million in international HIV/AIDS spending for next year, is "strongly committed to fighting HIV/AIDS internationally." The United States has often been criticized for under-funding international HIV/AIDS efforts, and David Gold, vice president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said that the Kerry-Frist bill represents a "change in paradigm" for the government. "The U.S. government in the past has had a really embarrassing level of commitment to human development. This is an important step, a much bigger commitment," he said (Kranish, Boston Globe, 5/15). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the Kerry-Frist press conference will be available online after 4:30 p.m. today.
Global AIDS Spotlight
Kaisernetwork.org will feature special coverage of the XIV International AIDS Conference, taking place in Barcelona, Spain, July 7-12, 2002, including Webcasts of select sessions and press conferences, interviews with newsmakers and perspectives from the AIDS frontlines. Coverage will also include in-depth segments on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, HIV prevention and treatment and AIDS fatigue, as well as the steady spread of the virus into Hispanic and African-American communities and populations such as women and children, both in the United States and worldwide. To find out more about how you can make this information available to your colleagues and constituents through your Web sites, listservs and newsletters, please visit http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2002, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call kaisernetwork at (202)347-5270.