Rep. Jim McDermott, WHO Official Say More U.S. Money, Greater Focus Needed to Fight HIV/AIDS in Africa
U.S. and international officials, speaking on Thursday at a one-day HIV/AIDS in Africa conference in Washington, D.C., said that the United States should give more money to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and that aid programs should ensure that funds "actually reach" those who need them, UN Wire reports. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), speaking to about 600 attendees, said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is not a health issue but a "global development issue" that cannot be ignored and "blasted" the Bush administration for its focus on war. "If we're lucky, we'll get $300 million out of Congress to devote to the fund," McDermott said, compared to "billions" of dollars expected to be spent on a war against Iraq. According to McDermott, the policy that "the whole response to 9/11 should be military shows that there is not understanding about what is going on in the world," and the U.S. should give at least $1 billion to the Global Fund. In addition, McDermott expressed "skepticism" about the Millennium Challenge Account, in which the proposed $5 billion increase in U.S. aid hinges on "good governance, social investment and the promotion of economic freedoms," according to UN Wire. He said that "very few countries," especially nations in Africa, would qualify for aid.
Epidemic Stabilizing in Africa; Prevention Efforts Still Needed
Kevin O'Reilly, associate director for surveillance, research, monitoring and evaluation for the World Health Organization's Department of HIV/AIDS, said in a speech that the number of people with HIV/AIDS in African nations could rise as increased life spans for patients receiving treatment offset high mortality rates, UN Wire reports. He said that in sub-Saharan Africa, the HIV/AIDS crisis is "probably starting to stabilize" because of "prevention efforts, the saturation of the numbers of those infected with HIV/AIDS and a balance between those who are dying and those who are newly infected." O'Reilly called for efforts to consider options to reduce the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission and said only 5% of people in Africa who need HIV testing or counseling receive it, according to UN Wire. O'Reilly said that other "concerns," such as opposition to abortion, should not steer international policy and "indirectly criticized" the U.S. tactic to focus on abstinence because "many women are forced to have sex against their will at an early age" and teen pregnancy rates are high in some African countries (Hartmann, UN Wire, 1/10). Other speakers expected to attend the conference included Dr. Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women; Dr. Helene Gayle, director of the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Dr. Richard Marlink, executive director of Harvard AIDS Institute (Conference agenda, 1/8).