Congress, Bush Administration In Disagreement Over AIDS Bill, Percentage of Funding for Global Fund
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have come into conflict with the Bush administration over their plan to reintroduce the U.S. Leadership to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Act, which would allocate $2.5 billion to fighting the three diseases in fiscal year 2004, earmarking no less than $1.25 billion of that amount for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Inter Press Service News Agency reports. The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in November 2002 but failed to make it to the House floor, is scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week. The administration is asking that the total amount of money in the bill be cut from $2.5 billion to $2 billion and that the $1.25 billion earmarked for the Global Fund be "reduced or eliminate[d] altogether," according to the Inter Press Service (Lobe, Inter Press Service News Agency, 2/10). Bush in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28 proposed spending $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The plan 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, 1/31). "The President used his State of the Union address to call for 'emergency' action to stop AIDS in Africa, yet now he is obstructing congressional efforts to move resources quickly to programs on the ground in Africa that are delivering treatment now," Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said. The fund, a multilateral initiative that has recently awarded more than $800 million in grants, is "fast running out of money due to high demand and disappointing contributions," and Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem last week said that "substantial refinancing will be needed if we are to continue with our work." AIDS advocates argue that an increased allocation of funds on the part of the United States would encourage other wealthy nations to donate more and could help save the fund from "virtual bankruptcy." Frist and Kerry are currently in negotiations with the administration. According to unnamed congressional sources, Frist, who has "close ties" to the president, has "shown some willingness" to reduce the amount earmarked for the fund to "around $800 million," Inter Press Service reports (Inter Press Service News Agency, 2/10).
NPR's "Morning Edition" yesterday reported on Bush's initiative and the "pressur[e]" being put on Frist and Kerry by the White House to reduce the amount of money they propose in their bill for the Global Fund. The segment includes statements from Zeitz; Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and chair of the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health; Anthony Fauci, head of AIDS research at NIH; and Joseph O'Neill, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/11). An audio version of the segment is available online.