Sens. Feingold and Durbin Call for Increased HIV/AIDS Funding After Trip to Sub-Saharan Africa
After returning from a trip to sub-Saharan Africa, Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) this week called on fellow lawmakers to follow through with funding President Bush's pledge of $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, the Associated Press reports (Frommer, Associated Press, 2/25). Bush announced the new initiative in his State of the Union address last month. The plan includes $10 billion in new money, and 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 international AIDS programs. Only $1 billion total would go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14). Durbin said that many Africans are worried that the new money may not be available because of other U.S. budget priorities. "There is a concern in Africa that the United States, engaging in a war in the Middle East, will not have the resources to deal with other problems in the world, including AIDS," Durbin said. Although Durbin said that the United States would keep its funding promise, many Africans remained skeptical. "The people of Southern Africa are very aware that the president has made this significant new commitment," Feingold said, adding, "They are trying to figure out whether it's really going to come, and to figure out how it's going to be used." Feingold, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, said that he would like to see more than $1 billion going to the Global Fund, so that additional funds can be leveraged from other countries. Durbin said that he will focus his efforts on ensuring that there are enough doctors in Africa, adding, "That might mean more money for medical schools, training in the United States, and incentives for doctors to stay in their native countries." Durbin also said that he plans to invite African leaders to Washington, D.C., to share information about the AIDS pandemic with other lawmakers (Associated Press, 2/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.