Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces on Signing of Global AIDS Bill, G8 Summit
A number of media outlets and organizations have commented on the bill (HR 1298), signed into law by President Bush last week, that authorizes $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The law, sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), authorizes $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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/28). The amount actually appropriated to the Global Fund may be less and is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund 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, 6/4). At the G8 summit in Evian, France, this week, Bush used the bill as leverage to urge other nations to allocate money for the fight against AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/2). The following are summaries of editorials, opinion pieces and press releases related to the events:
Charleston Post and Courier: Congress will "not have discharged its duty to help address the worldwide AIDS crisis until" it allocates the funds authorized in the global AIDS bill, according to a Charleston Post and Courier editorial. Bush is encouraging other countries to contribute similarly to the fight against AIDS and other diseases, with the global AIDS bill serving as a "fine example," the editorial says, concluding, "Congress should give [the bill] the fullest backing" (Charleston Post and Courier, 6/2).
Columbus Dispatch: Bush should be "applauded" for his HIV/AIDS initiative and for the legislation supporting it, which will "prevent many millions of people from contracting AIDS, will help alleviate suffering of many millions of victims and will save many millions of lives," according to a Columbus Dispatch editorial. But Bush and the public must "keep the pressure on Congress to keep its promise" of the funding that is authorized in the AIDS bill during the appropriations process, the Dispatch says. The editorial concludes, "[T]he most compelling reason for spending $15 billion is that it's the right thing to do. ... It's a large investment, but it's worth every penny" (Columbus Dispatch, 6/2).
Economist: "The pot of money [for fighting AIDS] is getting larger, but it is not becoming any easier to share out" due to inefficiency or corruption in African governments, "ideological hang-ups" among donor nations and a lack of "well-organized and functioning health system[s]" in developing nations, an Economist editorial says. So while "extra cash is always welcome ... there are doubts about whether it can be spent efficiently," the Economist concludes (Economist, 6/7).
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Although the Bush administration deserves "credit for asking France, Russia and other nations ... to step up spending on AIDS ... every wealthy nation, including the United States, can and should do more," according to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial. "We know what can be done when the world's nations focus enough attention -- and money -- on the quest to make AIDS a disease of the past. ... Now we need to put AIDS (and, possibly malaria) on the list of diseases that ought to be relegated to historical or theoretical," according to the Post-Intelligencer. The editorial continues, "It won't matter what part of the world designs the plan, or which nations spent the most money. It will only matter how quickly the devastation caused by AIDS is eliminated as a global threat." There is still "much work to be done" toward ending the AIDS pandemic, but the "best solution is the rivalry of generosity," the editorial concludes (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 6/2).
Syracuse Post-Standard: The $15 billion authorized in the global AIDS bill is "a lot of money," but it still "fails to meet the demand" of fighting HIV/AIDS throughout the world, according to a Syracuse Post-Standard editorial. The editorial says that "far more could have been approved to really halt the scourge that has killed more than 20 million people." The Post-Standard concludes, "Here's hoping [the G8] portion exceeds the example set" by the United States (Syracuse Post-Standard, 5/31).
Virginian-Pilot: The president's AIDS initiative is indicative of "compassionate conservatism at its effective best," and therefore Bush should be "applauded," according to a Virginian-Pilot editorial. The editorial says that critics should "curb [their] grumbling" because Bush has "thrown down the gauntlet to other rich countries" to make similar contributions. Although Bush has been criticized by some Democrats for his funding recommendations and for trying to "fit such large amounts" into the constraints of foreign aid spending limits, the initiative is still "wise foreign policy, helping project an image abroad of a benevolent America when resentment of our wealth and power is at an all-time high," the editorial concludes (Virginian-Pilot, 6/2).
- Mona Charen, Philadelphia Inquirer: Bush's global AIDS initiative represents "the kind of humanitarian intervention that the wealthiest nation on Earth should undertake," Charen, a syndicated columnist, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece, adding, so "[w]hy hasn't President Bush gotten more credit for this here at home?" The initiative is "precisely the sort of generous, humanitarian, decent act liberals claim to admire," Charen says, concluding, "But where is the applause?" (Charen, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/4).
- Murray Feshbach, New York Times: The United States must recognize that "the difficulties Russia faces" in its AIDS epidemic "may be almost as great" as the problems faced by those countries that are scheduled to receive funding through the AIDS initiative, Feshbach, a senior scholar the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. Deterioration of Russia may "come with greater consequences" than Africa since "[e]pidemics invite chaos ... [which is] the last thing we want in a struggling democracy with huge arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," Feshbach says, concluding that the world must donate more money to address the problem (Feshbach, New York Times, 5/31).
- Kenneth Kaunda, Boston Globe: The success of the fight against AIDS will depend on the ability of African nations to build their capacity to "wage this war on their own behalf" and on the assistance provided by the international community to accomplish this goal, Kaunda, former president of Zambia, writes in a Boston Globe opinion piece. "Although I can't say enough about Bush's leadership in pushing [the global AIDS] bill, it is still not enough," Kaunda says, concluding, "My hope is that now that the drama of the Group of Eight summit in Evian is history, the commitment of Bush and his G8 counterparts to join us in the fight against the disease will not become history as well" (Kaunda, Boston Globe, 6/6).
- Mikhail Margelov and Leo Hindrey, New York Times: "Eurasia is a new epicenter of the AIDS pandemic," and the potential consequences of health crises in this area "cannot [be] overestimat[ed]," Margelov, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of Russia's upper house of Parliament, and Hindrey, chair of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, write in a New York Times letter to the editor. Margelov and Hindrey, who co-chair the independent U.S.-Russia Working Group Against AIDS, say that their goal is to "create a trans-Atlantic partnership, so countries can combine resources, knowledge and political will to fight AIDS" (Margelov/Hindrey, New York Times, 6/6).
- Lesley Reed, Seattle Times: "You cannot speak of AIDS without speaking of the other diseases that plague poor nations [nor] without addressing the failure of export-led growth and the black hole of debt," Reed, a writer who traveled to Africa with a delegation of 36 American women to learn about the epidemic, writes in a Seattle Times opinion piece. Bush must therefore ensure that Congress allocates all of the funds promised in the bill, push other nations to contribute to the Global Fund and cancel the debts of developing countries, she concludes (Reed, Seattle Times, 5/30).
- Jeffrey Sachs, Taipei Times: "For the first time in history, the rich are so rich and the poor so poor, that a tiny effort by the rich could end massive suffering," costing less than 1% of the annual income of rich countries, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Columbia University Earth Institute, writes in a Taipei Times opinion piece. G8 nations should therefore work to raise food productivity and the availability of education, sanitation and clean drinking water in developing countries and "provide adequate financing for the Global Fund," Sachs concludes (Sachs, Taipei Times, 6/3).
- Simon Wright, Financial Times: "While the story behind the Bush billions for the fight against AIDS is not quite as generous as the United States would like us to believe ... it is still a significant step forward," Wright, HIV campaign manager at ActionAid, a U.K.-based development agency, writes in a Financial Times opinion piece. The possible $1 billion a year for the Global Fund is "particularly important," as the fund is "transparent and accountable and does not impose irrelevant conditions" on aid, Wright says. The European Union can and should therefore match U.S. contributions to the fund, Wright concludes (Wright, Financial Times, 6/5).
International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care: In a statement, the IAPAC expressed its "frustration" that the other G8 nations, with the exception of France and the United Kingdom, are not meeting the goals set by Bush for increasing international AIDS. "Either we will collectively contribute to ending needless suffering, or we will wait and watch for others to take this lead alone, increasing the risk that by inaction HIV disease and the poverty that engenders it will consume tens of millions more lives," IAPAC President and CEO Jose Zuniga said (IAPAC release, 6/5).
Physicians for Human Rights: Stating that since the "Global Fund has a proven record of funding what we know works in the fight against AIDS," PHR expressed concern that Bush's goal of preventing seven million new HIV infections will never be reached without the help of the fund, according to a PHR release. "The Global Fund's proven comprehensive, integrated approach can only work if European and other G8 donors match the U.S. pledge," Holly Burkhalter, PHR U.S. policy director, said, concluding that without such a response, "the Global Fund could face bankruptcy" (PHR release, 5/30).
STOPP International: "Celebrating the fact that this bill reserves a third of its prevention funding for abstinence programs is like celebrating the fact that condoms are effective 85% of the time," Ed Szymkowiak, national director of STOPP International, a program of the American Life League, said in a statement, referring to a provision in the bill that allocates 33% of prevention funding to abstinence programs, leaving the remainder for monogamy and condom programs. He added, "Despite the best intentions of many pro-family legislators who wanted to steer this bill in the right direction, it is simply not on par with the traditional family values the administration claims to represent" (STOPP release, 5/28).
- World Bank: The World Bank "welcomes" the new initiative and "trust[s] that the U.S. Congress will appropriate the funds authorized" by the law, according to a World Bank release. "With three million people being killed per year by AIDS, and 15,000 people each day becoming newly infected, we salute this generous initiative by the United States to help stop the deadly march of this terrible disease and safeguard the hard won development gains of the last several decades," World Bank President James Wolfensohn said (World Bank release, 5/28).