Tobias Defends PEPFAR During Senate Subcommittee Hearing; Democrats To Ask for Additional $500M in FY 2005 AIDS Spending
Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, on Tuesday during a Senate subcommittee hearing defended the administration's funding requests for the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, VOA News reports (McAlary, VOA News, 5/18). Tobias appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations for a hearing on the President's fiscal year 2005 budget request for HIV/AIDS spending (Appropriations committee release, 5/18). President Bush's proposed FY 2005 budget includes $2.8 billion for international HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs, including $1.45 billion for the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator and $200 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Senate FY 2005 budget resolution, which was approved on March 12, would increase Bush's foreign aid request by $300 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/26). Some Democrats at the hearing said that the administration's global AIDS funding request is "too little," according to VOA News. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that Bush should increase his budget request tenfold, VOA News reports. However, Tobias said that some of the recipient countries do not have the capacity to absorb more money. Tobias added that some of the money will go toward building infrastructure that will help the countries utilize the funds, according to VOA News. "There's no question the magnitude of this problem goes well beyond the resources and the focus of the president's emergency plan," Tobias said, adding, "I don't think the emergency plan was intended to attack the entire problem. We need to get more resources and more participation from other people in the world."
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) noted that the $15 billion over five years proposed under PEPFAR is less than the $25 billion that the president is seeking to continue the war in Iraq, VOA News reports. Durbin added that he and other lawmakers will push to increase the president's FY 2005 spending request by $500 million, according to VOA News (VOA News, 5/18). The Senate in March during debate on its budget proposal approved an amendment sponsored by Durbin that would add $300 million to fight global AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/26). Irish rock star Bono, the founder of the debt, AIDS and trade advocacy group DATA, also appeared before the subcommittee, saying, "We're here to encourage Congress to continue their work and step it up -- we have not won" the fight against HIV/AIDS. Subcommittee Chair Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that all of the funding appropriated for PEPFAR "will be spent as fast as the infrastructure can spend it usefully" (Pierce, Washington Times, 5/19).
Tobias Discusses FDA Expedited Review Plan
Tobias on Tuesday on PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" discussed the administration's recent decision to allow FDA to implement a fast-track review program to speed the delivery of low-cost antiretroviral drugs, including fixed-dose antiretroviral combination drugs, which combine two or more different medicines into one pill (Ifill, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 5/18).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. A complete transcript of the segment is available online.