Global Fund Approves HHS Secretary Thompson as New Chair
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria today elected HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson as its chair, according to participants in a press briefing this morning (Colleen Clark, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). Thompson, who was the only candidate for the position after Lennarth Hjelmaker of Sweden dropped out, would serve as the organization's "chief fundraiser," soliciting donations from wealthy nations throughout the world, including the United States, the Boston Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 1/31). The current chair, Chrispus Kiyonga, a government minister from Uganda, on Tuesday announced that he would not seek reelection due to a "critical matter" in his country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/30). The move, which comes three days after President Bush announced a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative in his State of the Union address, "could presage much larger U.S. contributions" to the Global Fund, the Washington Post reports. Bush's plan includes $10 billion in new funds, with $1 billion going toward the Global Fund and $9 billion for prevention and treatment programs in 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean. "Many" AIDS advocates said that the amount earmarked for the Global Fund in Bush's plan is "woefully inadequate," according to the Post. Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem said that Thompson's appointment has "no automatic connection with a greater U.S. financial contribution." However, he added that "anything that strengthens the [fund's] relationship with Washington and builds confidence with the Global Fund in the administration can only help in gaining the substantial resources we need" (Brown, Washington Post, 1/31).
"Today's appointment of Tommy Thompson as chair is unacceptable" because it "is sending the message that if you flatline the fund, you get a pat on the back," Asia Russell, director of international policy for Health GAP, said during the press briefing (Clark, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). Russell added that "[i]f the U.S. is going to buy the chairmanship, they could at least use real money" (Fox, Reuters, 1/30). Joanne Carter, legislative director of RESULTS, said that since the role of fund chair is one of "cheerleader and fundraiser," it is "iron[ic]" that Thompson was chosen after Bush's proposal "missed a huge opportunity" in the way it chose to allocate new money to the Global Fund. However, Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and a "frequent" critic of the Bush administration's health-related policies, said he believed that "this problem is going to be solved." Sachs added, "The administration has declared quite compellingly that they want to attack AIDS. Now they have to use the apparatus -- the fund -- they helped to initiate almost two years ago" (Boston Globe, 1/31). Sachs said during the press briefing that the United States "has to get off of its unilateralism and undertand that rather than reinventing the wheel of public health ... it should join in with other countries ... in the global fund" (Clark, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). "Overall, their announcement is a great acheivement, but they haven't hit on the right formula yet," he added (Boston Globe, 1/31).
The fund's executive board this week approved the second round of grants since its inception; the fund is now financing 160 programs in 85 countries at a total of $1.5 billion over two years, renewable for a total of five years, and $3.7 billion depending on performance, according to the Post. The fund currently has $2.2 billion in pledges from the international community, with $500 million from the United States. However, the Global Fund estimates that it will need $6 billion next year and $8 billion a year by 2007 (Washington Post, 1/31). U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis said that the fund is "fighting for survival." Bush's proposal of "only" $1 billion over five years to the fund "appeared to sideline" the initiative, the Financial Times reports (Dyer/Beattie, Financial Times, 1/30). Lewis added, "The international financial delinquency that has haunted the response to AIDS in Africa is hardly that of the U.S. alone. It extends, without exception, to all the wealthy nations" (Lamont, Financial Times, 1/31). But AIDS advocates argue that "without a greatly increased commitment from the United States, other wealthy nations are unlikely to increase their own donations, potentially leaving the fund bankrupt within a few years," according to the Post (Washington Post, 1/31).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of this morning's press briefing,which was hosted by RESULTS, Health GAP and the Global AIDS Alliance, will be available online later today.
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of Bush's State of the Union address is also available online.