Bush Administration Should Not ‘Shortchange’ First Year of Global AIDS Initiative, Opinion Piece Says
The congressional delegation to Africa led by Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) should "investigate the White House claim that the AIDS-stricken region cannot use an additional billion dollars in funding to fight the pandemic," Dr. Paul Spearman, a member of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS and an associate professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, writes in a Tennessean opinion piece (Spearman, Tennessean, 8/21). Bush in May signed into law in a measure (HR 1298) that authorizes $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The House so far has approved a total of $2 billion for the AIDS initiative in fiscal year 2004, an increase of about $500 million over FY 2003 AIDS spending (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/5). The $2 billion represents only two-thirds of the $3 billion authorized in HR 1298 but fulfills Bush's budget request of $2 billion (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/31). According to Spearman, the administration says that the health infrastructure in Africa is "too weak to absorb" the full $3 billion, but the administration should not "shortchang[e]" prevention efforts in the program's first year. "As a physician-scientist working in the field of HIV/AIDS, I know that treatment programs in impoverished communities without advanced health care infrastructures can be successful," Spearman says, adding that there is "no time to waste" and that "[s]ometimes throwing money at a problem can be the right approach." Spearman concludes that "[t]he longer the United States waits, the more difficult it becomes to build capacity and tackle the disease tearing at the very heart of communities throughout Africa" (Tennessean, 8/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.