HHS Secretary Thompson, U.S. Delegation Speak With HIV-Positive Clinic Patients in RwandaHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Tuesday on the second leg of his four-country trip to Africa visited Rwanda, where at least 13% of the country's 8.2 million people are HIV-positive, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Ngowi, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 12/3). Thompson and a U.S. delegation of lawmakers, business people and religious groups are in Africa to examine projects aimed at fighting HIV/AIDS. The U.S. delegation includes Randall Tobias, head of the new State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and Richard Holbrooke, president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The 80-person delegation was also scheduled to include UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem, CDC Director Julie Gerberding, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/2). Speaking to HIV/AIDS patients at a health center in Kigali, Thompson said, "We will do everything in our power ... to protect you and find a therapy for everyone here" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 12/3). Holbrooke said, "In my view, AIDS is the greatest social issue of our time." Holbrooke -- who along with the delegation visited the site of a new medical clinic and the Gisozi Genocide Memorial, commemorating the time during which ethnic Hutus ordered a "systematic ... genocide" of 250,000 Tutsis -- said that there is "often a direct relationship between HIV and human conflict," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He added, "AIDS follows wars ... because the health care system collapses and soldiers carry the virus and they visit prostitutes and prostitutes follow the soldiers" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/3). Innocent Nyaruhirira, the Rwandan minister of state in charge of HIV/AIDS, said that the government plans to ask the United States for more help to fight the epidemic, according to the AP/Sun (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 12/3).
Thompson Signs Global Fund Grant for Zambia
Thompson, who also serves as chair of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, on Tuesday while in Zambia -- the first country the delegation visited -- signed a $6.39 million grant for the country on behalf of the fund, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. Thompson said that the grant would help support programs in several government departments to combat sexually transmitted diseases and improve HIV/AIDS care, according to the AP/Daily Star. Thompson said, "I am impressed with the commitment shown by the people of Zambia in the fight against HIV/AIDS" (Mwisa, AP/Arizona Daily Star, 12/2). Thompson said, "It is in your hands and those of other [Global Fund grant] recipients to make sure plans are effective" to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He added that "good cost-effective proposals" along with "clear accountability" will make it "easier" for him to seek more funding from other donors, including Congress, according to the Washington File (Fisher-Thompson, Washington File, 12/2).
Companies Cooperate To Fight AIDS
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS on Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, announced that seven major multi-national companies -- AngloAmerican, Chevron Texaco, DaimlerChrysler, Eskom, Heineken Holding, Lafarge SA and Tata Iron & Steel -- will expand workplace HIV treatment and prevention programs and help improve health care infrastructure in Africa, the AP/News24.com reports (AP/News24.com, 12/3). The programs, which will be funded by the companies and the Global Fund, will operate in Cameroon, Russia, Ghana, India and South Africa. Thompson, speaking at the announcement of the initiative, said, "We came to Africa to increase private-sector engagement in the war on HIV/AIDS, and this announcement is exactly the kind of innovative idea we want to promote." Thompson added, "Leveraging the resources of companies in this way is a great new opportunity for communities to realize the opportunity of the Global Fund" (GBC release, 12/3). The companies have a "vested interest" in supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS because the companies have seen their work forces "decimated" in regions that have high HIV/AIDS prevalence, BBC News reports. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS said that "making full use of the resources of these huge multi-national companies" will allow them to "better focus" support on countries affected most by the epidemic, according to BBC News (Fraser, BBC News, 12/3).
On to Uganda
Thompson and the delegation on Thursday will travel to Uganda, evaluating the resources the country needs to continue fighting HIV/AIDS, Xinhua News Agency reports. Thompson will examine U.S.-supported HIV/AIDS programs in addition to private-sector efforts to address the AIDS crisis. Thompson is also expected to discuss the Global Fund and President Bush's $15 billion, five-year global AIDS initiative, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 12/3).