Bush Has ‘Led Fight’ To Provide ‘Safe, Effective’ AIDS Drugs to Developing World, Tobias Says in Letter to Editor
President Bush has "led the fight" to provide antiretroviral drugs to countries covered under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the new State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer letter to the editor (Tobias, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/1). Bush in Philadelphia last week said he would seek the immediate release of $500 million as part of PEPFAR, amid criticism that the program is moving too slowly. He said the grants will provide more antiretroviral treatment, promote prevention efforts and provide care for AIDS orphans. The president also said that some of the money will go toward building countries' infrastructures because "part of the challenge we face is to help poor countries have the capacity to absorb the drugs and compassion of America" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). The United States has "unmatched experience, infrastructure and relationships to both implement" PEPFAR and work with "multinational partners" to fight HIV/AIDS, Tobias says. The Bush administration "took the lead in founding" the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and currently is the "world's largest contributor" to the fund, according to Tobias. Although the Global Fund is "promising," it is "still maturing" and has released only $400 million of the $2.6 billion that it has raised over two years, Tobias says. PEPFAR, which is the "largest financial commitment ever" to an international health initiative, has released $865 million thus far and will release $2.4 billion in 2004 to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Tobias says. The Bush administration also has made sure that the antiretroviral drugs approved for PEPFAR are "safe," giving people covered under the program the "same assurances as American families that the drugs they use are safe and effective," Tobias concludes (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/1).
C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Thursday is scheduled to include an interview with Tobias ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 7/1). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.