Sen. Alexander Discusses Funding for Global AIDS Initiative on PRI’s ‘The World’
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) yesterday spoke on PRI's "The World" about his role in the debate over ongoing appropriations actions and funding levels for President Bush's global AIDS initiative (Mullins, "The World," PRI, 9/4). Alexander was part of a six-member congressional delegation, which also included Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Warner (R-Va.), that traveled last month to South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia to meet with government and public health officials, physicians and HIV-positive people and their families (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29). Alexander said that the $15 billion pledged by Bush and authorized in the bill HR 1298 "will be spent, period." However, he added that "the question is how fast to spend it" because "my sense of things is that the African system can't absorb too much money too quickly" ("The World," PRI, 9/4). Although Congress authorized $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration has requested that Congress only appropriate $2 billion for the first year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29). When asked for his opinion about some groups' stance that it would be better to spend more money now on prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS patients in Africa, Alexander said, "I didn't talk to one person who thought that. Everybody told me, 'Our biggest problem is structure, manpower and training.' So not everything can be done in the first day, and many of the people we met said, 'Make sure you spend the money wisely. We want every penny of that $15 billion.'" According to Alexander, Congress in the first year should focus on programs aimed at ensuring safe blood transfusions and the use of sterile needles and establishing a private U.S. agency to send volunteers to Africa to work with existing organizations ("The World," PRI, 9/4).
The full segment is available online in Windows Media.