Tobias Extends Deadline for Other Countries To Contribute to Global Fund To Allow for Maximum U.S. Contribution
Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the State Department's Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, on Wednesday said he will extend a deadline for other countries to contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to ensure that the United States can supply the maximum amount authorized by Congress for the fund, Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 8/18). Congress authorized $547 million for the fund for fiscal year 2004. However, the bill (HR 1298) authorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief stipulates that the total U.S. contribution to the fund cannot exceed 33% of total contributions to the fund (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/3). Under the requirement, other donors would have to contribute a total of $1.11 billion to the Global Fund for the United States to provide the total $547 million that Congress authorized to go to the fund. Because the fund was $243 million short of the $1.11 billion by the July 31 deadline, the United States only would be able to contribute $427 million and would roll the remaining $120 million back into the PEPFAR budget (Sternberg, USA Today, 8/19). However, Tobias announced that he intends to hold the $120 million until Sept. 30 -- the end of the federal fiscal year -- to give other countries and foundations more time to make the additional contributions to the Global Fund (Brown, Washington Post, 8/19). "Regardless of what happens, the $120 million will be used for HIV/AIDS," Tobias said, adding, "We would just like to make it available to the Global Fund" (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 8/19).
Meeting the Challenge
Global Fund officials suggested the extension in order to maximize the U.S. contribution to the fund and provide European countries -- which operate on different budgetary schedules -- with additional time to make contributions, according to James Palmer, a U.S. consultant for the Global Fund (Washington Post, 8/19). Tobias said he is "very hopeful that the rest of the world will take action" (McNeil, New York Times, 8/19). The European Commission and Italy are expected to deliver their respective $50 million and $120 million pledges by the Sept. 30 deadline, according to the Boston Globe (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 8/19). Anil Soni, executive director of Friends of the Global Fight, an advocacy organization that encourages public support of the Global Fund, applauded Tobias' deadline extension and expressed confidence that donors would meet the challenge, USA Today reports (USA Today, 8/19). Soni added that officials attending the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in July estimated that $24 billion soon would be needed worldwide to fight HIV/AIDS. If rich nations do not increase their pledges, "we're fast approaching a plateau that would be insufficient," he said (New York Times, 8/19). Tobias called the extension a "sales tool to encourage other donor nations to step up," adding, "It is the U.S. government's desire to support the Global Fund to the maximum extent it possibly can" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/19).
However, some advocates are concerned that the extension will not be long enough, the Detroit Free Press reports (Detroit Free Press, 8/19). "This is not a matter of arithmetic. This is a matter of life and death," Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said, adding, "If Mr. Tobias has been given flexibility, I would appeal to him to exercise the flexibility to the end of the year rather than the end of September" (Neergaard, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/18). "They are crowing about how much money they give to the Global Fund but constantly scaling back," Gregg Gonsalves of Gay Men's Health Crisis said, adding, "There should be no conditionality placed upon donations to the Global Fund. In the end, this won't hurt the European Union. It only hurts people with AIDS" (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 8/19). David Bryden of the Global AIDS Alliance said, "The Global Fund needs the money in the bank now," adding, "That would be a more effective way of challenging the rest of the world to donate what it should" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/18).