LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (Reuters) - President Clinton said on
Saturday the United States must do more to combat the "plague"
of AIDS around the world as he signed into law a bill boosting
U.S. funding to fight the disease overseas.
"While we're making real progress in the fight against AIDS
here at home, we have to do more to combat this plague around
the world," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.
Clinton, who is on a weekend vacation with his family in Lake
Placid, signed into law the "Global AIDS and Tuberculosis
Relief Act of 2000," which authorizes the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) to spend $300 million in each
of the next two years on global AIDS prevention.
Clinton, who is enjoying a private weekend and celebrating his
54th birthday in the Adirondacks on Saturday, signed the bill
at the house of real estate developer Arthur Lussi, where the
first family is staying. The only member of the Clinton
entourage who ventured out early on Saturday was first dog
Buddy, who was taken for a walk down Lake Placid's Main Street
by a presidential aide.
The legislation provides $150 million for each of the next two
years for a World Bank-administered fund to promote AIDS
prevention, safe blood supplies, voluntary testing and
counseling and measures to prevent mother-to-child
It also gives $50 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines
and Immunization (GAVI), which funds vaccine research for
infectious diseases including AIDS, and $10 million to the New
York-based International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which
finances research specifically for an AIDS vaccine.
The legislation provides the budget "authority" for the funds.
But the Republican-led Congress must act through one of its 13
annual "appropriations" bills to set aside funding.
Still, Clinton hailed the bill as a step toward stopping the
spread of the AIDS virus, which infects roughly 34 million
people around the world -- about 24.5 million of whom are in
He noted that AIDS has become the leading cause of death in
Africa and poses a growing threat elsewhere in the world,
notably in Asia and in countries of the former Soviet Union.
"Fighting AIDS worldwide is not just the right thing to do,
it's the smart thing," Clinton said. "In our tightly connected
world, infectious disease anywhere is a threat to public health
"AIDS threatens the economies of the poorest countries, the
stability of friendly nations, the future of fragile
democracies," said Clinton, who will visit Africa next week.
The legislation offers significantly more for USAID's AIDS
programs -- $300 million -- than the $244 million the White
House had asked for in February when Clinton submitted his
annual budget for fiscal 2001, which begins on Oct. 1, 2000.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who was one of the
bill's sponsors, hailed the president's signing it into law.
"Money saves lives. ... The AIDS pandemic will soon be the
worst infectious disease in global history, surpassing even the
bubonic plague," she said in a statement. "The good news is
that unlike the bubonic plague, we can stop the spread of
HIV/AIDS through education and prevention efforts."
Sandra Thurman, head of the White House Office of National AIDS
Policy, said the administration would work with Congress to
ensure its full AIDS request was passed, including $61 million
for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $10
million each for the Department of Labor and of Defense.
She also told reporters the AIDS crisis was most acute in
Africa, where more than 5,000 people die from it each day.
"It's mind boggling," Thurman said. "What we see in Africa is
just the tip of the iceberg."