Funds for U.S. Anti-AIDS Effort Fall Short

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Friday, July 18, 2003 at 12:32PM :

So, this doesn't surprise me one bit - Bush wants to keep up his good PR by visiting Africa, while his minions strip funding from the anti-AIDS project. Kinda how the U.S. gov't shifts funding from AIDS to an anthrax vaccine - how many people die from AIDS every year, while how few people die from anthrax? It's unreal how slimey Bush & his backers have gotten.
July 17, 2003
Moves to Boost Funds for U.S. Anti-AIDS Effort Falls Short; Bush Blamed
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON –- Two efforts by Democratic lawmakers to boost next year’s U.S. contribution to the global fight against AIDS were narrowly defeated in a key Congressional committee Wednesday, spurring charges that President George W. Bush, who just returned from a five-day trip to Africa last weekend, had betrayed the expectations he created while there.

Pointing to a letter sent to lawmakers by the director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Joseph O’Neill, backers of an amendment that would have provided a total of US$3 billion to the global anti-AIDS fight for fiscal year 2004, said Bush had violated his own promises in Africa to fight for full funding of his five-year $15-billion-dollar AIDS package.

The amendment, put forward by New York Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, was defeated in a 33-28 vote with only one Republican, Roy LaHood of Illinois, casting his ballot for the amendment.

Instead, the Republican majority on the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives bowed to O’Neill’s request and provided only $2 billion for FY 2004, pursuant to an administration plan to gradually increase assistance over the five years.

“The president raised expectations in Africa that he would in fact deliver (the full funding),” said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance (GAA). “This will only raise questions in the minds of Africans about whether the president can be believed.”

“I don’t want the rest of the world to think we say one thing and we do less,” said Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, a Michigan Democrat, who had offered an amendment to increase assistance next year from $2 billion to $2.3 billion. Her amendment was defeated in a 28-27 vote.

Both votes came amid bad news elsewhere on the global AIDS front. At a meeting in Paris, donors to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria ended a key meeting without providing major new pledges of funds for the multilateral facility established two years ago to provide assistance quickly for projects to fight AIDS, which currently claims about 7,000 African lives each day.

Organizers said current pledges to the Global Fund will provide only $4.7 billion dollars to 2007, and that the facility could technically run out of money at the end of the next budgeting cycle. The Fund itself has estimated that will need $7 billion annually by 2007 to keep up with soaring demand in Africa, and increasingly Asia and Russia, as well.

“Over the months ahead, we have to make further steps forward,” said the Fund’s executive director, Richard Feachem. “The aim is to rise to the cruising altitude…which is $7 billion a year to be achieved by 2007 and to get to that cruising altitude, it’s important to keep up the pace.”

Activists and other donors had hoped the European Union which, along with the U.S., has accounted for the vast majority of money committed to the Fund to date, would agree to provide 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion a year) beginning in 2004, but member states were unable to reach a consensus, and the meeting broke up without such a commitment.

Bush has been particularly tight-fisted with the Global Fund. While Congress earmarked up to $1 billion for the Fund in its foreign-aid authorization bill last month, Bush has insisted that he will only commit $200 million a year for the foreseeable future.

Because the U.S. normally provides between 25 and 33 percent of the budget of multilateral agencies like the Fund, AIDS activists have complained that Bush is making it vastly more difficult for the Fund to be able to raise enough money from other countries to reach its target of $7 billion by 2007. Ironically, the Fund’s chairman is Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson.

“The U.S. has taken control of the leadership of the Global Fund, and then ensured that it doesn’t have the money to deal with the problem,” said Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action. “He exploited Africans' suffering to present himself on his trip as a compassionate conservative, when in reality he is a callous and cynical antagonist in the global fight against AIDS who is undermining the most important vehicle for combating the epidemic.”

Bush’s stinginess proved too much even for his fellow-Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, which ignored O’Neill’s request that it appropriate only $200 million for the Fund. Instead, the Committee voted to allocate a total of $500 million for the Fund, the amount provided for in the version approved last week by the Foreign Operations subcommittee, chaired by Arizona Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe.

The fact that O’Neill called explicitly for the Committee to approve only the $200 million requested by Bush further outraged AIDS activists. “The president could simply have accepted the increase approved by the subcommittee,” said Zeitz. “Instead he has actively discouraged increased funding. This is an outrage, especially when the Fund is facing such a massive shortfall in funding available for projects that can effectively use them.”

While the administration had touted passage of the far more generous authorization bill as a great breakthrough in the fight against AIDS, activists here point out that the appropriations bill would determine how much money is actually spent. During Bush’s trips, even Kolbe expressed annoyance that Bush was creating expectations that would not be met because of the serious budget constraints facing Congress this year, especially in light of the unexpected costs of the war in Iraq. At one point, Kolbe complained that Bush “continues to compound the problem” of expectations that will inevitably be disappointed.

But to Booker, the defeat of Lowey’s amendment to add $1 billion in emergency funding for next year was a particularly bitter pill, coming just a few days after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shocked lawmakers when he told them that the costs of the Iraq occupation will come to $4 billion a month, twice what the Pentagon had projected before the war.

“Bush is spending $1 billion every week on an unpopular military occupation in which Americans and Iraqis are being killed on a daily basis,” said Booker. “Yet he opposes spending an extra $1 billion in a whole year that could save tens of thousands of lives in Africa to stop the greatest threat to human security in the world today. For him to waltz around Africa as a ‘compassionate conservative’ is just plain obscene.”

© Copyright 2003

-- Sadie
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