Bush Calls on Congress To Reauthorize PEPFAR Ahead of G8 Summit
President Bush on Wednesday called on Congress to quickly reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ahead of the Group of Eight industrialized nations summit next week in Hokkaido, Japan, Reuters reports.
Senate leaders last week sought to bring legislation (S 2731) that would reauthorize PEFPAR to the floor for a vote, but some Republican senators blocked it because of its cost. The measure would authorize $50 billion in funding over five years for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs (Zakaria, Reuters, 7/2). The House passed its version (HR 5501) of the measure in April. Bush has said he would like the Senate version to be approved so he can use it as leverage to ask other countries at the summit to make larger contributions to fight HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/30).
"It's very important that Congress reauthorize this plan," Bush said, adding, "One of my really important agenda items [will be] to ... rally our partners to make commitments and meet commitments" to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries (Reuters, 7/2). He also said, "We need people who not only make promises, but write checks, for the sake of human rights and human dignity, and for the sake of peace" (Feller, AP/Google.com, 7/2). White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said that Bush remains "very optimistic" that Congress would pass the reauthorization bill. "All of the discussions have been positive," Fratto said (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/3).
Bush noted that at the G8 summit he also will "discuss additional steps to confront some other challenges, such as the need to train health care workers in G8 partne[r] countries in Africa" (Reuters, 7/2). Experts from the World Health Organization on Wednesday said that increased international aid to Africa also should be used to increase salaries for physicians and strengthen the recruitment and training of medical staff, Reuters Health reports. Researchers from WHO and the University of California in a WHO bulletin said that there is a shortfall of 2.3 million physicians, nurses and midwives worldwide, with the largest shortfall in sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers wrote that there should be enough physicians worldwide to meet global needs by 2015, but counties such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda are projected to be far short of meeting need (MacInnis, Reuters Health, 7/2).
The WHO bulletin on physician shortage is available online.
ActionAid Denounces G8 Draft Communiqué
In related news, ActionAid on Tuesday denounced a draft G8 communiqué scheduled to be issued at the summit because it does not cite 2010 targets for universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment or for $25 billion in annual aid to Africa that were set at the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, IANS/Thaindian News reports (IANS/Thaindian News, 7/2). According to a report released last month by an Africa Progress Panel, G8 aid to Africa will fall $40 billion short of the Gleneagles pledge (Manson, Reuters, 7/2).
The draft reportedly says that the G8 will continue "working towards the goal of universal access" to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, as well as commit to fulfilling "our commitments on [development aid] made at Gleneagles," but it but does not specifically mention the target dates. Some diplomats have said that the draft, dated June 25, might change, especially if African leaders increase opposition to the language over the next week (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/1).
Anne Jellema, international director of policy for ActionAid, said, "In the midst of a global food crisis, for the world's richest countries to backtrack on aid to the world's poorest continent would be a crime." Leonard Okello, head of HIV/AIDS for ActionAid, said, "Without releasing funds, all promises on HIV and AIDS will be broken." He added, "AIDS kills over 8,000 people every day, and we are faced with a global catastrophe if our G8 leaders continue to break their promises" (IANS/Thaindian News, 7/2).