Clinton Urges Nations to Develop Plans to Halt HIV/AIDS, Says He Regrets Opposing Needle Exchange Programs While President
Speaking yesterday at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, former President Clinton urged nations to "speak out forcefully and develop plans" to curb the spread the HIV/AIDS, the New York Times reports. As part of a panel of former heads of state attending the conference, Clinton characterized the AIDS pandemic as an "economic, security and humanitarian issue." He said each country seeking assistance should draft a proposal that says, "Here is what we are doing and here is what we need from the rest of the world" to combat HIV/AIDS (Altman, New York Times, 7/12). These "battle plans," which should include treatment and prevention, should then be submitted to wealthy nations, Clinton added (Garrett, Newsday, 7/12). Mapping out such a strategy would make it easier for politicians in industrialized nations "to say 'yes'" to additional funding, he said (AP/MSNBC.com, 7/11). Failure to take action would force nations to spend more to "clean up the mess of this humanitarian tragedy," Clinton said, adding that the United States must "pay its fair share" and increase its spending on AIDS from $800 million a year to $2.5 billion annually (New York Times, 7/12). For the U.S. government to increase its contribution to international HIV/AIDS efforts, AIDS should be linked to economic and security issues, Clinton said, noting that Americans "respond best" when those issues are "highlighted" and problems are presented in a way that makes them appear "solvable" (Schoofs/Zimmerman, Wall Street Journal, 7/12). Clinton also praised the work that has been done on HIV/AIDS and urged activists and researchers "not to be discouraged," the AP/Arizona Republic reports. "Obviously, these numbers are overwhelming, and there have been no medical breakthroughs and I know a lot of you are worn down, and if you're HIV-positive, you may be frightened," he said. "But there is a greater level of understanding and support among the political leadership of the world across the lines that otherwise divide people," Clinton added (Ross, AP/Arizona Republic, 7/12).
Needle Exchange Regrets
During his address, Clinton also said he "was wrong" in his decision not to allow federal funding for needle-exchange programs (Wall Street Journal, 7/12). In April 1998, an HHS report cited needle-exchange programs as a means of reducing the spread of HIV while not encouraging the use of illegal drugs, but the Clinton administration announced that it would not permit federal funding to be used for such programs. The administration instead said that it favored allowing local communities to make their own decisions about funding needle-exchange programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/21/98). "We were worried about drug use going up again in America," he explained (Sternberg, USA Today, 7/11).
A Webcast of the session with Clinton and other former world leaders is available online.
Clinton Tapes MTV Special
Also at the conference yesterday, Clinton met with young people in an MTV town-hall style meeting, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 7/12). Clinton answered questions about U.S. policy on AIDS and gave advice on how young people could "do more to fight AIDS," which he called the "world's biggest single problem, barring nuclear war." Clinton said, "You can badger governments and organizations and drug companies to do more, but it's so much easier if you badger for something specific." He also criticized President Bush for not contributing more to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, saying the United States should contribute 25% of the $7 billion to $10 billion estimated to be needed annually to fight HIV/AIDS on an international scale. "We should be able to come up with money like this," Clinton said. MTV will air the session -- "MTV's Staying Alive: A Global Forum on HIV/AIDS" -- at 10 a.m. on Sunday (Tasker, Miami Herald, 7/12).
The session can also be viewed online.