Coalition of Evangelical Groups Calls on Bush To Propose Increase in Funding To Combat AIDS, TB, Malaria
A coalition of evangelical Christian groups on Tuesday called for President Bush to propose during his Jan. 20 State of the Union address increasing fiscal year 2005 funding for the global AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiative to $3.6 billion, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. During his 2003 State of the Union speech, Bush announced a five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in some sub-Saharan African and Caribbean nations (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/14). According to sources involved in the budget process, Bush plans to request in his FY 2005 budget proposal $2.7 billion for international HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives. However, White House sources have declined to comment on the funding request, saying that no final decisions have been made. Bush's proposed FY 2005 budget is expected to be sent to Congress on Feb. 2 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/7). The House on Dec. 8 approved in the FY 2004 omnibus spending bill $2.4 billion for spending on the three diseases. However, the Senate failed to vote on the bill before its winter recess. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has scheduled a vote on the bill for Jan. 20, when the Senate reconvenes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/12/03). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting the global AIDS initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration requested only $2 billion. Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in order to give the program time to "ramp up" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/10/03). According to AIDS advocates, Congress has authorized up to $3.6 billion for AIDS, TB and malaria programs in FY 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/7).
Serge Duss, director of public policy for World Vision, said, "We urge the president to agree to $3.6 billion for his 2005 fiscal year budget. It is absolutely necessary to keep the plan on target." Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, said, "I'm not directly challenging the administration's arguments, but if we give the money, there are groups to do the work who will do it very effectively." He added, "The evangelical community in America is not the Republican Party at prayer. We will hold both political parties accountable, and that includes President Bush." Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Paul Zeitz said, "We strongly think this program should be front-loaded. You don't delay funding when you're fighting an epidemic. ... The question is what are the needs? The president's plan isn't meeting up to that standard." Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Chet Kolton said, "We will ramp up spending. All sober observers of the situation recognize that some infrastructure needs to be developed for the effective use of these funds. You can't just write a check for $15 billion" (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/14).
A fact sheet, titled "U.S. Government Funding for HIV/AIDS in Resource Poor Settings," is available online from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The fact sheet examines federal funding for the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a primary emphasis on funding activities that benefit resource poor countries.