AIDS Advocates in Nashville, Washington Protest Sen. Frist’s Position on AIDS Funding
Seven AIDS advocates on Friday "staged a noisy confrontation" at Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-Tenn.) Nashville office to protest his position on the allocation of AIDS funding for President Bush's proposed global AIDS initiative, the AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Earlier that day, another group of 20 protestors "blared sirens, flashed lights and distributed fliers" outside Frist's Washington, D.C., home starting at 6 a.m., according to the AP/Appeal. The advocates said that Frist had "allowed his allegiance to the White House to interfere with his commitment to the AIDS fight" by not reintroducing a measure from the last congressional session that would have allocated more AIDS funding than is proposed in the Bush initiative, including significantly more money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the AP/Appeal (McDowell, AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal, 3/8). Frist is now supporting a "greatly weaken[ed]" White House draft bill (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14). According to a copy of the new draft bill, the measure would "strip all specific funding levels" for AIDS programs; substitute the word "should" for "shall" in several mandates; remove all congressional oversight requirements; and eliminate a stipulation that $2.2 billion be earmarked for the Global Fund. Instead, the White House draft bill replaces the $2.2 billion figure with the phrase "such sums as may be necessary." Frist's earlier version of the bill (HR 2069) -- a combination of two measures passed in July by the Senate -- would have authorized nearly $5 billion over two years in spending to help curb HIV transmission worldwide. Sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Frist and supported by former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the first measure (S 2525) would have authorized about $4.5 billion in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 for the Global Fund and would have required the United States to develop a five-year plan to reduce worldwide HIV/AIDS cases and other infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and malaria. The second measure (S 2649) would have given the HHS secretary the authority to implement HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services in developing countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14). The protestors argued that Bush's plan to allocate the majority of AIDS funding to U.S.-led projects will take years to implement and that any money allocated should go to the Global Fund, which the protestors called the "only timely hope for people with AIDS in developing countries," the AP/Appeal reports. Nick Smith, a spokesperson for Frist, said that Frist has not reintroduced last year's legislation because he is working with "Senate Democrats, Republicans and the White House to craft the best legislation possible" (AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal, 3/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.