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WASHINGTON -- Today at the United Nations, President Bush is making a major speech highlighting his support for programs to address the global AIDS epidemic. Last Saturday in his radio address he proclaimed his support for the Global Fund, the world's premiere anti-AIDS effort, launched in 2001 at the urging of UN Secretary Kofi Annan.
In fact, the President's proposed annual contribution to the fund is only one-fifth of what Secretary Annan requested of the United States this past July at the International AIDS Conference in Thailand. Annan's special envoy on AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, has stated the Bush approach is "not leadership on AIDS."
Annan has voiced frustration at being misled by President Bush's promises. "I would want to see $1 billion from the European Union per year for the next five years, $1 billion from the United States government and $1 billion from other sources.... Initially, [US officials] have said $1 billion to the fund, and I said, well ... this $1 billion initial is not too bad, but then I discovered it was $1 billion in five years."
Without a substantial increase in funding the Global Fund will not be able to offer new grants in 2005. President Bush's current budget cuts funding for the Global Fund by 64 percent, from the $550 million Congress funded last year to $200 million for FY05.
"It is outrageous that President Bush is claiming to support the Global Fund," stated Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, an advocacy organization based in the United States. "Europe has far outstripped the United States as a backer of the Fund. It is a myth that there is some legal impediment to the United States pledging many times what it is currently giving the Fund, as a way of leveraging more funds from other nations," stated Zeitz.
The President stated in his radio address that his efforts focus on the "most afflicted countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia." In fact, the President's initiative focuses only on one country in Asia, Vietnam, and does relatively little to address the exploding epidemic in India, China and other second wave nations.
In Africa, only approximately 2 percent of those dying from AIDS have access to life saving medicine. In the President's 2003 State of the Union Address he promised to provide 2 million people with this life saving medicine. A recent report by the Administration revealed that the President has met less than 1.5 percent of this promise to deliver treatment.
Source: Global AIDS Alliance