Five Countries To Tax Airline Tickets To Raise Money for HIV/AIDS
Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom on Tuesday at the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly are expected to announce a plan to impose an airline ticket tax to fund an international drug purchase facility and HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria treatment and prevention programs, a French official said Monday, the New York Times reports (Dugger, New York Times, 9/19). The French Parliament in January passed a measure that will add a tax of up to $47 for travelers departing from French airports. French President Jacques Chirac in January 2005 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, first announced the idea for the tax. The tax is expected to raise about $248 million for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria programs. Twelve countries in March agreed to join France in imposing the airline ticket tax. About 25 countries declined to impose the tax but pledged to contribute funds to a central account created by the 13 countries from the tax (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/2). The five countries through the Geneva-based organization Unitaid, an international drug purchase facility, plan to pool purchasing power and have asked the Clinton Foundation to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for bulk discounts on antiretroviral drugs, according to the Times. France is imposing a $5 tax for each international economy ticket and about $51 on each first-class fare under the initiative. Britain has committed about $25 million for the effort next year, which will come from its foreign aid budget and will increase to $76 million by 2010, according to British officials. Officials say they plan to use the tax revenue to help pay for antiretroviral treatment for 100,000 HIV-positive children worldwide and 100,000 HIV-positive people who have become resistant to first-line antiretrovirals. The plan also could help provide drugs for 150,000 children with TB and 28 million with malaria, the Times reports.
"Any solution that addresses diagnostics and drugs but not the human resources crisis and the lack of political will in many African settings will not be comprehensive," Mark Kline -- a pediatrics professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, which sponsors 50 American pediatricians working in seven African countries -- said. In addition, some HIV/AIDS advocates say they worry that the airline ticket tax initiative would replace government funding in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Times reports. According to French officials and officials from the Clinton Foundation, Unitaid aims to provide a dependable funding source for medicines and diagnostics and does not aim to take full responsibility for delivering antiretrovirals to children and other underserved groups (New York Times, 9/19).