Bush Requests $30 Billion to Fight AIDS
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
May 31, 2007
WASHINGTON, May 30 - President Bush called Wednesday for Congress to spend $30 billion to fight global AIDS over the next five years, a near doubling of financing that is part of a White House effort to burnish Mr. Bush's humanitarian credentials before he meets leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations next week.
The initiative, if approved, would build on a program that grew out of the president's 2003 State of the Union address, when he asked for $15 billion over five years for prevention, treatment and care of AIDS patients in developing countries. Congress approved more than $18 billion, but the program is set to expire next year.
Mr. Bush's announcement, delivered in the White House Rose Garden, adds to what has become an unexpectedly high priority for the White House. AIDS was not a signature issue for Mr. Bush when he ran for office in 2000. But it has become one in part because the Christian conservatives who make up his political base have embraced it, and in part because Mr. Bush wants to build a legacy for the United States and a more compassionate image abroad to counter international criticism of American policies in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
That sentiment was reflected in Mr. Bush's remarks on Wednesday.
"Once again, the generosity of the American people is one of the great untold stories of our time," he said. "Our citizens are offering comfort to millions who suffer, and restoring hope to those who feel forsaken."
AIDS advocacy organizations praised Mr. Bush for proposing the additional money, but said the plan - which he said would provide drugs for 2.5 million patients - did not go nearly far enough toward meeting the international community's stated goal of treating the estimated 10 million patients in developing nations.
"It's a modest increase, it's important that he reaffirmed it, but we will need the next president to do more," said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group. "We're not getting ahead of the AIDS crisis. We're tempering it."
Administration officials concede that point and say the White House is hoping Mr. Bush's announcement will prod other Group of 8 countries, as well as nations that have growing economies, to make spending commitments of their own.
"The goal of universal access isn't a United States goal, it's a global goal," said Mark R. Dybul, the administration's global AIDS coordinator. "The rest of the world is going to need to respond if we are going to achieve these goals."
International development and human rights issues will be high on the agenda of next week's summit, but so will climate change - an issue on which Mr. Bush finds himself at odds with his fellow Group of 8 leaders, notably the meeting's host, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Dan Bartlett, counselor to Mr. Bush, said the president intended to address climate change in a speech on Thursday at the United States Agency for International Development.
But so far this week, Mr. Bush has been devoting most of his attention to human rights and poverty, issues that draw him less criticism than his stance on climate change. In an interview Monday night, a senior administration official said Mr. Bush planned to spend the week in advance of the Group of 8 conference spotlighting humanitarian issues and "demonstrating U.S. leadership around the world."
On Tuesday, Mr. Bush announced he was imposing stiff economic sanctions on Sudan to press its government into cooperating with a United Nations peacekeeping force that is trying to end the violence in Darfur.
On Wednesday, in addition to the AIDS announcement, Mr. Bush named Robert B. Zoellick, his former trade representative, as his candidate to head the World Bank, calling the nominee "a committed internationalist" who "wants to help struggling nations defeat poverty." In Thursday's speech, Mr. Bush also intends to talk about education programs in the developing world, and his initiative to combat malaria.
The AIDS initiative, which is likely to generate bipartisan support in Congress, would cover federal spending for the 2009 to 2013 fiscal years, meaning the vast majority of the money would be spent after Mr. Bush left office. To promote it, the White House is sending Laura Bush to Africa next month.
"She and I share a passion," Mr. Bush said. "We believe that to whom much is given, much is required."
The United Nations reports that there are nearly 40 million people worldwide living with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS; last year three million died from their infections. In his announcement in 2003, Mr. Bush said he was committed to offering treatment for two million H.I.V. patients by 2008. But so far, he said, the program, called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has paid for treatment for just 1.1 million people in 15 nations.
Advocates complain that the new goal, bringing the number of patients treated to 2.5 million, is not that much more ambitious than the old one. "By 2013 there will be 12 million people that urgently need medicines," Mr. Zeitz said.
The White House, however, said that in addition to providing treatment for 2.5 million, the new money would prevent 12 million new infections and provide care for more than 12 million people.
Mr. Bartlett said the president was convinced America's image in the world would improve because of it.
"I've heard him talk about this is a part of America that gets overlooked," he said, "and that over time, people will look back and say, 'At a point in time where America may have been under scrutiny for other reasons, look at the significant contribution they have made. They saved more lives than anybody could have imagined.' "
Donald Payne, NJ Congressman, Applauds Administration on Increased HIV/Aids Funding
United States House Of Representatives (Washington, DC)
31 May 2007
Posted to the web 31 May 2007
Congressman Donald M. Payne, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, praised the Bush Administration's announcement of increasing funding for the President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to $30 billion. Payne, who on World's AIDS Day 2006 called on the Administration to double their initial financial commitment of $15 billion, considers this announcement a positive advancement towards PEPFAR's reauthorization.
Launched in 2003, PEPFAR is a multi-billion dollar initiative aimed at drastically reducing HIV/AIDS infections and the adverse affects of the disease in 15 focus countries, twelve of which are on the African continent. Set to be reauthorized in 2008, PEPFAR has achieved many successes. According to the US Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, over 800,000 people are currently receiving anti-retroviral medications. Through PEPFAR, nearly 50,000 people living with AIDS start life-saving therapies every month. With this new infusion of resources, the Bush Administration hopes to expand treatment to 2.5 million people.
Payne presided as Chair over the House Foreign Affairs Committee's hearing on PEPFAR's reauthorization on April 24, 2007. During the hearing, Payne stated, "I have always said that we must make the issue of global health local. The ability to take care of oneself and your family is not an exclusive human right determined by one's geography. As the United States, we have the moral responsibility to assist developing nations as they tackle the AIDS epidemic. It is evident to me that if we are to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, we are going to have to redouble our efforts to find and implement effective programs, and to significantly increase the resources we are providing."
While the increased funding is a welcomed sign from the Administration, much more needs to be done. An injection of financial resources, without proper direction, can dampen potential new victories. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, Payne will continue to raise his concerns about PEPFAR's operations as Congress debates its reauthorization, "We must give health care workers on the ground the ability to tailor their plans according to the culture and conditions in which they work. It is vital that we address countries' failing health infrastructure which must include focusing on health worker shortages and working to improve their water and sanitation issues. Also, we must further collaborate with world food organizations that help to provide the nourishment needed to take anti-retroviral medications. In order for PEPFAR to reach its maximum potential, we need to take the lessons learned over the past 4 years and improve upon this initiative."
More War on AIDS
Mr. Bush proposes to double America's commitment.
Sunday, June 3, 2007; Washington Post
THOSE WHO questioned President Bush's commitment to fight the pernicious progression of HIV and AIDS around the world should be doubters no more. Not only did he meet his pledge of $15 billion over five years, he also called on Congress last week to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for another five years -- long after he's vacated the Oval Office. This is one foreign policy initiative that should get Congress's swift approval.
When Mr. Bush announced his emergency plan for AIDS during his 2003 State of the Union address, he stunned the world's AIDS community. After all, up until then, the U.S. had contributed only $840 million to combating this global scourge. The $15 billion was the largest pledge ever by any nation to fight a single disease. But that was a pledge. The reality is that by the end of fiscal 2008, when PEPFAR is slated to end, the U.S. will have spent $18.3 billion. Treatment has been provided for 1.1 million people in 15 focus countries, which are home to about half the world's AIDS population, most of it in Africa. By the end of fiscal 2013, PEPFAR, working with national governments, will have committed $48.3 billion over 10 years and 2.5 million people will be receiving treatment such as anti-retroviral medication, if Congress funds Bush's latest initiative.
That's a drop in an ever-deepening bucket of AIDS cases around the world. According to UNAIDS, 39.5 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in 2006. That's up 2.6 million cases since 2004. Two-thirds of all infected adults and children live in sub-Saharan Africa -- 24.7 million, up 1.1 million since 2004. And the estimated number of people contracting the disease with no cure rose to 4.3 million in 2006, up 400,000 since 2004.
The administration has been criticized for what a small portion of the money is being spent on (abstinence programs) and for what none of it is being spent on (needle-exchange programs). While PEPFAR seeks to implement comprehensive prevention measures -- the U.S. is the largest distributor of condoms in the world -- the continuing prohibition against needle-exchange programs appears to be grounded in head-in-the-sand logic. But Mr. Bush is right to push undauntedly to do what the United States can in the fight against AIDS.
Bush asks for $30bn to fight AIDS worldwide
2nd June 2007 22:00
President Bush has called on the United States Congress to double U.S. funding towards fighting the global AIDS pandemic.
He requested $30 billion through the President's Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the first five years after he leaves office.
The President first announced his plans to create PEPFAR, a five year, $15 billion dollar initiative to combat AIDS worldwide, during his 2003 State of the Union Address.
PEPFAR funding supports various HIV/AIDS programmes, which provide access to antiretroviral drugs, treatment, and prevention in fifteen focus countries, in addition to many other countries hard hit by the AIDS pandemic.
The programme is currently set to expire on September 30, 2008.
"Twenty-six years after the first reported AIDS case in the U.S., HIV and AIDS continues to devastate communities both at home and abroad, and our nation's leadership must harness all possible resources to confront the epidemic," said gay lobby group Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
"Though the PEPFAR programme has provided life-saving treatment for millions of people with HIV/AIDS worldwide, we continue to have grave concerns over the misguided restrictions on prevention funding.
"Our nation's experts agree that the abstinence earmark only exacerbates the challenges in providing effective and culturally appropriate prevention messages to stem the transmission of the epidemic.
"We urge Congress to lift these restrictions based purely on ideology and instead fund proven science-based prevention strategies."
Current US law dictates that one-third of prevention funding through PEPFAR must teach exclusively abstinence-only until marriage.
A 2006 report from the General Accountability Office (GAO) found that seventeen of the twenty countries surveyed reported that the abstinence earmark "challenges their ability to develop interventions that are responsive to local epidemiology and social norms."
Furthermore, the GAO reported that in order to comply with the abstinence earmark, many countries were forced to significantly cut funding for prevention efforts to reach those most at risk, including programmes designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus.
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) likewise criticised the abstinence earmark as well as the programme's ban on funding needle exchange programs as obstacles to the programme's effectiveness.
Representatives Barbara Lee (Democrat, California) and Christopher Shays (Republican, Connecticut) have introduced the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007 which would eliminate the abstinence-only earmark in PEPFAR.
May 31, 2007
Under the Bush program, known as the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, 20% of the funding is dedicated to AIDS prevention, and one-third of that goes to programs that promote abstinence until marriage.
Dr. Mark R. Dybul, the U.S. global aids coordinator, said in a conference call with reporters that the five-year program also had provided 1.3 billion condoms, and that it had taken "a balanced approach."
He said the proposal would double spending on HIV/AIDS to $30 billion over five years even though the White House had requested only about $5 billion for the next fiscal year, which begins in October.
Asia Russell, director of international policy at Health GAP, an advocacy group funded by private donations and foundations that is fighting AIDS in developing countries, said the Bush request amounted to funding at the current level and would not keep pace with the AIDS epidemic.
She said Bush promised when he began the program that by 2008 it would treat 2 million people with AIDS, about one-third of those in urgent need, and had supported international promises for universal access to HIV treatment and prevention. Her organization estimates that such a course would need a $50-billion U.S. commitment over the next five years.
The president, who wore an HIV/AIDS ribbon in the left lapel of his suit, said First Lady Laura Bush would visit with community leaders and participants in HIV/AIDS programs at the end of June in Zambia, Senegal, Mali and Mozambique.
Bush was joined by Kunene Tantoh, who, the president said, is HIV-positive and runs a U.S.-supported mentoring program for mothers with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa.
As he finished speaking, Bush scooped up Tantoh's son Baron, 4, who had run up to join them.
The U.S.-funded program operates in Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.
Many international aid organizations, lawmakers and HIV/AIDS advocates applauded Bush's proposal, the Post reports. "With the energy and resources provided by PEPFAR and other programs, there has been impressive progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS worldwide, but the battle is far from won," Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who chairs the Committee on Foreign Relation's Africa subcommittee, said, adding, "Right now, only a small percentage of those who need lifesaving drugs are receiving them, while millions more are contracting this preventable virus every year." Natasha Bilimoria -- executive director of the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- said that PEPFAR "has made a lifesaving difference to millions of people suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world" (Fletcher, Washington Post, 5/31).