O’Neill Calls for HIV/AIDS Treatment, Greater Accountability for Allocation of Funds
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who is on a 10-day tour of Africa with Irish rock star Bono, on Friday called for increased access to HIV/AIDS treatment and greater accountability for assistance programs, after the pair visited HIV/AIDS patients in South Africa, the Washington Post reports. O'Neill and Bono went to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, where they met with HIV-positive women whose children had been treated at birth with the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission. O'Neill, who has been critical of foreign aid in the past, wondered aloud why the South African government was not providing treatment to all HIV-positive pregnant women (Blustein, Washington Post, 5/25). "This whole business about having so much money ... and it not going primarily to treatment is just a stunning revelation," O'Neill said (Reuters/Toronto Star, 5/25). "I think there is an essential question here about the priority choices of how money is being used and coming in here," he said (Murphy, Baltimore Sun, 5/25). He added that although there is a place for prevention, there is "something wrong if the system does not take care of here-and-now physical mothers and their babies." O'Neill stopped short of calling for increased funding for programs to reduce mother-to-child transmission, saying that officials need to address concerns about improper allocation of current funds first. "Before we know whether we need more money in the supplemental [spending bill], we need to understand, for God's sake, what are we doing with what we have got," he said later at a press conference, adding that he is "not prepared" to endorse proposed Senate legislation that would allocate an additional $500 million to international HIV/AIDS initiatives during the current fiscal year (Washington Post, 5/25). O'Neill added, "I resent that we've spent a trillion dollars and there are still millions of people living without running water" (Singer, Boston Globe, 5/25).
'This Week' Features Interview With O'Neill, Bono
On Sunday, in an interview with ABC's "This Week," O'Neill echoed his call for greater accountability. "My problem is that it isn't clear why we aren't getting better choices about the priority use of the money that is already there. ... For me, this is about getting real results on the ground," he said. Bono, who advocates a development strategy for Africa similar to the Marshall Plan -- the U.S. system for helping Europe rebuild after World War II -- said that he "accept[s] what [O'Neill] is saying that we have to get more bang for the buck. But we have to say to America: We need more ... per capita. I think Americans are spending not as much as the rest of the world." He added, "We're going home with a few things: Get these drugs to people, where there are delivery systems in place, and get [clean] water to people." A video clip of the full segment is available online (Stephanopoulos, "This Week," ABC, 5/26).