Bush Touts PEPFAR, Urges Congress To Reauthorize Ryan White CARE Act
President Bush on Thursday in a speech to commemorate World AIDS Day said that the U.S. "has a unique ability and a special calling" to fight HIV/AIDS, and he commended the progress of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief for helping to provide treatment to HIV-positive people in developing countries, the Washington Post reports (Brown, Washington Post, 12/2). Bush said the two-year-old PEPFAR is providing antiretroviral drugs to 400,000 HIV-positive people in developing countries and is on pace to treat two million by 2009 (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/2). PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria primarily to 15 focus countries and provides funding to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Bush also announced a new program to identify and support more faith-based and community organizations worldwide that he said provide much of the health care in developing countries, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. "By identifying and supporting these organizations, we will reach more people, more effectively, and save more lives," he said (Riechmann, AP/Yahoo! News, 12/1). Bush called the program the "New Partners Initiative," which he said also will support "good people who serve others [who] are also motivated by their deep faith" (White House release, 12/1). NPI aims to provide $200 million in grants through PEPFAR (NPI fact sheet, 12/1). The president invited to the speech Durban, South Africa, resident Thandazile Darby and her two children -- all of whom are HIV-positive -- and Ugandan physician Peter Mugyenyi, who was the first doctor in his country to treat HIV-positive patients with combination antiretroviral drug regimens (Washington Post, 12/2). On the domestic front, Bush urged Congress to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which expired on Sept. 30. The CARE Act provides funding for care and services to HIV-positive people in the U.S. (AP/Yahoo! News, 12/1).
Reaction to Speech
David Bryden, a spokesperson for the Global AIDS Alliance, said that while PEPFAR's contribution "is an important step" to providing universal access to antiretroviral drugs, "we still have a long way to go." Bryden said the U.S. must work with other countries by increasing its contribution to the Global Fund for the goal to be achieved. Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, "The Bush White House has talked a big game on fighting AIDS but has consistently shortchanged the president's initiatives and stood in the way of important global efforts to curb this disease" (Washington Post, 12/2). Jack Valenti, president of the advocacy organization Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said it "is a significant achievement" that 400,000 HIV-positive individuals are receiving care with PEPFAR funding and that an additional 384,000 people are being treated using Global Fund money. "It means so many more lives have been saved because of the solid investments made by the U.S. to the Global Fund and to its bilateral programs," Valenti said, adding, "But it also means that more must be done" (Global Fight release, 12/1).