Bush to Announce Details of International Vertical HIV Transmission Prevention Plan Within Next Few Days
President Bush will announce within the "next few days" the details of his plan to spend about $500 million to prevent vertical HIV transmission in foreign nations, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Fram, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/8). The plan would commit $500 million over five years to a vertical HIV transmission prevention program, the "centerpiece" of which would be the provision of the antiretroviral drug nevirapine (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 6/10). Democrats have expressed concern that the program would not begin until 2004.
Impact on the Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Last Thursday, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels asked Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to scale back an amendment to a fiscal year 2002 supplemental appropriations bill (HR 4775) that the Senate passed on Friday after Daniels "assured" him that Bush would provide "comparable" funds for international HIV/AIDS programs in his plan, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8). Frist and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) had planned to propose an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill that would have allocated a total of $500 million for international HIV/AIDS programs this year, but they decided later to propose an amendment that would allocate only an additional $100 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/7). The $100 million proposed by Frist and Helms would fund international HIV/AIDS programs that help to prevent vertical HIV transmission, according to Advocates for Youth (Advocates for Youth release, 6/7). The $100 million already contained within the supplemental appropriations bill will go toward the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/22). The Wall Street Journal reports that Bush's personal involvement with the development of the vertical transmission prevention program stems from his "frustration ... with the United States simply writing checks" to the Global Fund (Wall Street Journal, 6/10). Helms and Frist "are working closely" with Bush to develop the administration's plan, OMB spokesperson Trent Duffy said (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/8).
Criticism From Democrats, AIDS Activists
A number of Democratic lawmakers and AIDS activists have criticized Frist for his decision not to introduce the amendment that would have provided $500 million for international HIV/AIDS programs. "It's a bait and switch," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said. She added that had "she known that Frist ... and Helms would pull their support at the 11th hour," she would have organized other senators who supported the amendment and "done something" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8). Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said, "I am appalled that this real opportunity to significantly increase the United States contribution to combating [HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria] was squandered." Lee said that the United States should provide $1 billion this year to the Global Fund and that funds for vertical transmission prevention programs "should not come at the expense of an overall U.S. contribution" to the Global Fund (Lee release, 6/7). AIDS activists expressed doubts that the Bush administration would increase funds for international HIV/AIDS programs by $500 million, the amount abandoned by Frist and Helms. "Do we have any faith that the White House will make up for it? No," Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Paul Zeitz said (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8). Zeitz said that although Frist had sought to increase funds for international HIV/AIDS programs by $500 million this year, the Bush administration plan may allocate the $500 million over several years (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/8). In addition, the Wall Street Journal reports that it is likely that the Bush administration will use some of the funds contained in the Frist/Helms amendment for the vertical transmission prevention program. According to the Journal, the plan "raises complex ethical questions" regarding treatment for HIV-positive mothers after they stop breastfeeding their children (Wall Street Journal, 6/10). Advocates for Youth President James Wagoner said, "By prohibiting the use of these funds [in the Frist/Helms amendment] for prevention efforts beyond mother-to-child transmission, the Senate ignores the one billion young people ... whose lives also hang in the balance in the face of this deadly pandemic" (Advocates for Youth release, 6/7).
Global AIDS Spotlight
Kaisernetwork.org will feature special coverage of the XIV International AIDS Conference, taking place in Barcelona, Spain, July 7-12, 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.