Congressional Black Caucus, Other Advocacy Groups Demand Funding ‘Now’ for President’s AIDS Initiative
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and leaders of several advocacy groups yesterday at a press briefing applauded President Bush's proposed $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative for Africa and the Caribbean but showed skepticism about the details and timetable of the plan. Sheila Kibuka, director of the Harambee Africa AIDS Initiative, said that Bush's announcement represented "a day of hope for Africa," however she stressed that funds need to be made available immediately to combat the disease in the poorest countries (William Wetmore, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/29). Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker added, "The real measure of the president's sincerity will be in the budget numbers for 2003 and 2004. Large numbers for 2007 are meaningless to people who will die this year without access to essential medicines" (Africa Action release, 1/29). Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said that he believed only $1.7 billion will be proposed in the next budget to fight HIV/AIDS, but he said he would like to see a commitment of $3.5 billion. Past initiatives, such as Bush's mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention program, are significantly underfunded, CBC members said. "The administration has perfected the art of warm and fuzzy double-speak," Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) said. Lawmakers and advocates were adamant that money for HIV/AIDS should not be taken from the budgets of other development programs. "We must make sure we're not taking from Peter to pay Paul," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. CBC members and advocates said that they will closely examine the details of Bush's plan when it is released and work closely with the administration to assure that the president's pledge is fulfilled. "This is day one and we will be measuring our progress daily by this regard," Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said (Wetmore, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.