Bush To Sign $15B International HIV/AIDS Bill; Could Use Bill To Leverage Contributions From G8 Countries
President Bush today in a ceremony at the State Department is scheduled to sign an international HIV/AIDS bill (HR 1298) that would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, a move that could give him "more leverage to press" other countries to contribute to the effort at the upcoming G8 summit, the AP/Denver Rocky Mountain News reports (Riechmann, AP/Denver Rocky Mountain News, 5/27). The House last week approved the final version of the bill after the Senate earlier this month passed an amended version that would increase funding for debt relief in countries hit hardest by HIV/AIDS. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), would authorize $3 billion a year for five years to international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which has had success in lowering HIV prevalence rates in Uganda. The package recommends that 55% of direct aid go to treatment programs, 20% to programs aimed at preventing HIV infections, 15% to palliative care and 10% to programs assisting children who have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS-related causes. The measure also specifically allocates one-third of the bill's HIV/AIDS prevention funding for abstinence programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/22). Bush had asked lawmakers to have the bill on his desk before he travels to Evian, France, for the G8 summit to be held June 1-3, when he plans to urge other countries to contribute to the effort to combat the epidemic, the AP/Rocky Mountain News reports.
Congress must still approve the spending levels defined in the bill through the appropriations process. While the bill calls for $3 billion a year for five years, the Bush administration in its FY 2004 budget proposal only recommended $1.7 billion for the initiative (AP/Denver Rocky Mountain News, 5/27). Lawmakers seeking to increase the amount will have to compete with rising military and security costs, an expanding budget deficit and the tax cut bill. In addition, the amount actually appropriated toward the bill's $1 billion recommended contribution to the Global Fund is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund but only if that amount totals no more than one-third of the fund's total contributions. Therefore, in order for the total $1 billion to be appropriated, other nations must contribute more money (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/22). Mark Isaac, vice president of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, "This is a whole new day in the fight against this epidemic," adding, "The president moved with great speed, but now Congress has to move with the same speed and dispatch." Jose Zuniga, president of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, said, "Other wealthy nations -- specifically G8 member nations -- must follow suit with similar funding increases" (AP/Denver Rocky Mountain News, 5/27).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the signing ceremony will be available online after 5 p.m. today.