PEPFAR Funding May Be Hurt by War in Iraq, Growing U.S. Budget Deficit, Some HIV/AIDS Advocates Say
Although President Bush has "won wide acclaim" for creating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief last year, the initiative's "ambitious goals could be imperiled by the realities of an expensive war and a growing budget deficit," the AP/Yahoo! News reports (Abrams, AP/Yahoo! News, 12/4). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to 15 focus countries, including Botswana, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/12). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting PEPFAR authorized $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration requested only $2 billion for fiscal year 2004 while Congress authorized a total of $2.4 billion (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/4/03). Last month, Congress approved a FY 2005 omnibus spending package that included $2.9 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- $99 million more than Bush had requested and much of which will go to PEPFAR (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/29).
According to the Bush administration, it "always planned" to increase PEPFAR funding "gradually as new programs got organized and became better able to put the aid to good use," the AP/Yahoo! News reports. However, Global AIDS Alliance Communications Director David Bryden, said that the organization "fears Bush will try to keep spending flat" in FY 2006 in order to finance the war in Iraq and "make his tax cuts permanent," according to the AP/Yahoo! News. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added that although she has "urged" Bush to "live up to his pledge to provide" the full $15 billion, "[s]o far, his budgets have fallen far short," the AP/Yahoo! News reports. Other HIV/AIDS advocates say they expect the United States to fulfill its funding pledge. "It would be shocking for the richest, most powerful country in the world not to meet its commitment. We see no sign of that," Seth Amgott, spokesperson for the debt, trade and AIDS advocacy group DATA, said. According to Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), head of the House foreign aid appropriations subcommittee, the $2.9 billion approved for FY 2005 was the "largest amount ever appropriated for a disease program in a single year," the AP/Yahoo! News reports. Steven Radelet, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said that while he believes PEPFAR eventually will be fully funded, it will be promoted -- along with the Millennium Challenge Account -- at the "expense of other aid programs," according to the AP/Yahoo! News. Funding for initiatives concerning the global environment or multinational development banks "could begin to be squeezed, and I think that's where the danger is," he said (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/4).