President Bush Announces Three-Year, $500M International Program to Prevent Vertical HIV Transmission
President Bush this morning announced a three-year, $500 million international HIV/AIDS initiative focused on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa and the Caribbean, the Washington Post reports (Blustein, Washington Post, 6/18). Bush was joined at the Rose Garden ceremony by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and USAID Director Andrew Natsios. Bush also thanked Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) (CNN, Bush speech, 6/19). The proposed funding would be disbursed incrementally, beginning with $200 million this fiscal year and continuing with the remaining $300 million over FY 2003 and FY 2004. The Senate recently approved $200 million for international HIV/AIDS spending in a FY 2002 supplemental spending bill (Reuters/Namibian, 6/19). The program would initially focus on eight African nations and the Caribbean and would later expand to include twelve African nations, White House officials said (AP/New York Times, 6/19). Bush said that the "best opportunity" for preventing HIV/AIDS is to stop mother-to-child HIV transmission. The new initiative, which will be funded over the next 16 months and will provide treatment to one million HIV-positive women each year, will reduce vertical HIV transmission by 40% in target countries within five years or less, Bush said. He added that the program will pursue "proven" medical strategies and demand "effective management." Bush said that the initiative will have three parts, which he summarized as the following:
- In countries where there is a sound health care infrastructure, the program will provide voluntary testing and counseling for pregnant women and administer antiretroviral medications to those women who test HIV-positive, as well as their infants.
- In places with weaker health care systems, voluntary testing and counseling will be provided, but HIV-positive women will receive only one dose of nevirapine to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their newborns.
- The third part of the program will "make a major effort" to improve the health care systems in all of the target countries (Bush speech, 6/19).
Funding Not 'Enough'
HIV/AIDS advocacy groups said that Bush's proposed program does not provide "enough" funding and is "too narrowly tailored" to stem the spread of HIV. "The fact is that the U.S. has ample resources to help fight global AIDS; yet, sadly, the president still seems unprepared to show real leadership," Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said. Zeitz and other critics of the plan have "accused" the Bush administration of "undermining legislation" that could have provided "far more funding" for HIV/AIDS (Reuters/Namibian, 6/19). Senate Republicans earlier this month "scaled back" a similar proposal by Helms and Frist to boost international HIV/AIDS funding for prevention programs aimed at mother-to-child transmission from $500 million to $200 million in "anticipati[on]" of Bush's announcement today (AP/New York Times, 6/19). Zeitz added that Bush's proposal was an "embarrassment," especially following a recent National Intelligence Council analysis indicating that the number of AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa could double over the next five years (Reuters/New York Times, 6/18).
A video of Bush's speech is available online.
Audio versions of the speech are also available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media Player formats.