Clinton Supports Bush AIDS Plan at Retrovirus Conference, Calls for More Money To Go To Global Fund
Former President Bill Clinton, speaking yesterday at the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, said he supported President Bush's plan to spend $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, but called for more money to go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Boston Globe reports. In his keynote address to 3,900 treatment and research scientists, Clinton said that Bush's plan is a "big deal, a good thing," but he added that he would "like to see more of it go through the Global Fund" (Smith, Boston Globe, 2/11). Bush in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28 proposed the plan, which includes $10 billion in new money. Under the initiative, new funds averaging an additional $2 billion per year would be phased in gradually to supplement the $1 billion per year the government now spends on AIDS; only $1 billion total would go to the Global Fund (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/7). Clinton called on conference attendees and others to "fight to ensure that Congress commits to the increase" and keep "politics from intruding" on health care measures. He added, "[AIDS] should never be a political issue, and I hope to God it will never again be a partisan issue until this thing is over and done with." Clinton also said that countries in Africa and the Caribbean that receive the funds must have "methods in place for assuring the money will be used efficiently and for its intended purpose," the Globe reports. Clinton is working with his own foundation to develop and implement systems to make sure that "as much money -- and medicine -- reaches as many people as possible" (Boston Globe, 2/11).
Several "important" research projects are expected to report their findings at the conference, the Boston Herald reports. Partners HealthCare researcher William Rodriguez is set to unveil a new HIV "quick test" that detects HIV infection, measures a patient's CD4+ T cells, measures the amount of virus that is present in the bloodstream and determines whether the HIV strain is drug resistant. The test will only cost 50 cents and can be conducted "on the spot," according to Dr. Bruce Walker, Massachusetts General Hospital's director of AIDS research and member of the conference's scientific program committee. Conference participants are also expected to discuss the toxicity of antiretroviral drugs, the Herald reports. Walker said that "several" studies are examining this issue, including the association between protease inhibitors and heart disease. In addition, new drugs in the "earliest stages of testing" will be discussed, according to Mario Stevenson, co-chair of the conference. The conference last night also included a performance from the South African Sinikithemba Choir, which is made up of HIV-positive people (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 2/10).