U.S. falls short on AIDS funding
May 17, 2001
The United Nations recently proposed creating a $7 billion superfund to combat AIDS globally, but the United States has not given the measure the enthusiastic support it deserves.
AIDS has claimed 23 million lives, particularly in developing countries. It has already killed more people than all the major wars in the twentieth century combined. And many of the 36 million people currently infected with AIDS worldwide will die of the disease.
AIDS has spread unchecked in developing countries because these governments lack the financial resources that are critical for treatment and education.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested all wealthy countries to make generous contributions toward the superfund. In a trip to Washington last week, he appealed to the Bush administration for increased funding. The money would aid scientific breakthroughs and provide high-quality care to patients living in underdeveloped countries. It would also be used to educate the public about preventive techniques, such as encouraging condom use.
In response to Annan's request, the administration pledged only $200 million.
Dr. Peter Lurie, of Public Citizen's Public Health Research Group, questioned the president's commitment to fighting AIDS, calling the U.S. contribution "miserly."
Miserly, too, is the Bush administration's funding for domestic efforts to combat AIDS. Sen. William Frist, R-Tenn., a successful surgeon before joining Congress, believes that more than a billion dollars are needed annually to fight AIDS here at home. But so far, the U.S. government has proposed to allocate only $480 million from this year's $2 trillion budget to funding AIDS-prevention initiatives domestically.
These paltry allocations show that the Bush administration is not committed to fighting the disease.
Funding AIDS research has never been an important priority of the Republican Party. Many Republicans from the Reagan era were convinced that AIDS was divine retribution for gay men. Now Bush talks more compassionately, but he doesn't back it up with needed action.
How many more people need to die before the United States throws its full weight and wallet at this disease?
S. Gopikrishna is a writer in Toronto. He writes commentaries for Rediff, an e-zine based in Bombay, and for the Toronto-based news monthly, Desinews. He can be reached at email@example.com.