Bush’s Global AIDS Initiative Could be ‘Tarnished’ by Slow Start, AIDS Advocates Say
President Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative could be "tarnished" by an "anemic" start, Gannett/Detroit News reports. AIDS advocates had hoped for $3 billion in fiscal year 2004 for "massive" treatment and prevention efforts in the 12 African and two Caribbean countries covered by the initiative, but Republican congressional leaders are trying to hold spending to $2 billion (Frandsen, Gannett/Detroit News, 10/26). In addition, the Bush administration has requested only $2 billion, although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program. Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in funding for the first year of the initiative in order to give the program time to "ramp up" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17). DATA, an AIDS, debt relief and trade advocacy group, has said that the extra $1 billion could prevent 1.6 million new HIV infections and could provide 400,000 HIV-positive people with antiretroviral treatment, according to Gannett/Detroit News. AIDS advocates say that the epidemic has "dramatically" worsened poverty in countries hardest hit and could lead to slow economic growth and political instability in some countries. "We're saying this is an emergency. The president says it is an emergency. But $2 billion doesn't treat it as an emergency," DATA's Tom Hart said, adding, "You don't deal with a forest fire with a couple of garden hoses."
Some AIDS groups are hoping that the Senate will approve the full amount authorized, but "time is running short," Gannett/Detroit News reports (Gannett/Detroit News, 10/26). The Senate last month rejected an amendment to the FY 2004 labor, health and education services appropriations bill (HR 2660) that would have added $1 billion to the roughly $2 billion already appropriated by the Senate for the initiative. The House has approved approximately $2 billion for the AIDS initiative for FY 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17). Most congressional Republicans are "comfortable" with the $2 billion amount, according to Gannett/Detroit News. "Contrary to the alarmist rhetoric of the hard left, we have achieved a great milestone if we get $2 billion for AIDS," Sam Stratman, spokesperson for House International Relations Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), said, adding, "We don't even know if there is a capacity to absorb this money." Serge Duss of World Vision said the additional $1 billion should be spent creating clinics, treatment networks and other infrastructure to provide prevention and treatment services (Gannett/Detroit News, 10/26).