has $1B for global AIDS, senator says.
WASHINGTON - Responding to the criticisms that activists
have leveled at the proposed U.S. contribution to the
AIDS Fund, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., sought Wednesday to
put matters in perspective.
Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee,
said during a wide-ranging hearing on the global impact of
AIDS that the fiscal 2003 budget carries roughly $ 1 billion
in funds for global AIDS programs, not just the $ 200 million
President Bush recently pledged to the AIDS fund.
Most of the government's funding flows through the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) and other federal programs. "We quite
frankly look like pikers when the ( AIDS Fund) number
comes up, relative to the need," Biden says. He acknowledged
that much more money will be needed to successfully attack
what he called "one of the most, if not the most, pressing
health concerns of our time.
" Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services,
says the Bush administration's $ 200 million pledge is "tremendously
generous" in light of budget demands.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed the global fund
last April. The money is intended to buy medication, build
medical systems, pay for schooling and meet countless other
needs in poor countries struggling to contend with a raging
AIDS activists said the roughly $ 1 billion figure overstates
the amount that reaches poor people desperate for AIDS education
and treatment. From $ 200 million to $ 300 million of that
amount is used for research, they say.
"When we started the war on terrorism (the administration)
was able to find $ 40 billion," says Fred Dillon of the San
Francisco AIDS Foundation. "We need the same kind of response
for global AIDS.
" Many lingering questions on how the global fund would
be governed were ironed out in September. The first grants
to needy nations and AIDS groups are to be announced in April.
Yet the fund's $ 2 billion balance is less than one-third
of Annan's $ 7 billion annual goal, which is based on a global
assessment of need.
Some experts pointed out that the fund is still a work
in progress that has not yet proved itself.
"We do need more resources to support the AIDS
Fund," says Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a committee member.
But he warned against putting too much funding in one place.
Peter Piot, director of the United Nations joint program
on AIDS, told the committee that more than 60 million people
worldwide have now been infected with the AIDS virus, a population
twice that of California.
AIDS is now the leading killer in sub-Saharan Africa,
the fourth leading killer worldwide, he said. He noted that
people in hard-hit African countries have an average life
span of only 47 years.