Bush in State of Union Address Calls for Continued Funding for International HIV/AIDS, Malaria Programs
President Bush in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday called on Congress to continue funding programs for overseas HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives, the Wall Street Journal reports (McKinnon et al., Wall Street Journal, 1/24). "We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty and disease," Bush said, adding, "We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa" (AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 1/23). Bush said that the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has helped increase the number of people worldwide with access to antiretroviral drugs from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three years, adding that Congress should continue to provide funding for U.S. HIV/AIDS efforts. He also urged Congress to provide $1.2 billion over five years to the President's Malaria Initiative, which aims to combat the disease in 15 African countries. In addition, Bush called on Congress to provide funding for the Millennium Challenge Account, a program aimed at encouraging economic and political reforms in developing countries, as well as to support expanded trade and debt relief efforts (Speech text, 1/23).
Bill Clapp, co-founder of the Initiative for Global Development, said that Bush deserves credit for showing a "strong interest in health-related issues" during his speech. "Our reputation abroad was somewhat at risk," Clapp said, adding, "The United States doesn't want to be known as a warrior; it wants to be known as a beacon of light in the world" (Heim/Doughton, Seattle Times, 1/24). Although Bush is "right to point out the contribution the United States has made to the fight against global HIV/AIDS," the "U.S. effort must be part of a global response aimed at reaching specific goals," Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance Paul Zeitz said. Bush "has not mapped out a strategy to leverage a global response that would put this goal within reach," Zeitz added (GAA release, 1/23). Bush in his speech "failed to address the domestic HIV epidemic," a release by AIDS Action Council said, adding, "In particular, the president failed to call upon lawmakers to prioritize the needs of people living with HIV by making lifesaving drugs and medical treatment available to all who are HIV infected, nor did he highlight the importance of HIV prevention" (AAC release, 1/23). Jack Valenti, president of Friends of the Global Fight, said that global HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis programs -- as well as the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- are "saving the lives of millions of children and families around the world." Valenti added that he is "hopeful that these programs will continue to be a vital priority in the new Congress, and that we as a country maintain our commitment to those, mostly children, who will die without this vital support" (Friends of the Global Fight release, 1/23).
The health care related items in Bush's speech, including his remarks on HIV/AIDS and malaria, are available online at kaisernetwork.org.