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Annan Calls on Foundations to Back AIDS War Chest


PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Monday for private U.S. foundations to put their financial might behind a new global fund designed to orchestrate a new coordinated attack on the AIDS pandemic.

"In today's world, there are no health sanctuaries, no separation between 'foreign' and 'domestic' infections; no 'us' and no 'them'," Annan told about 2,500 people at the annual meeting of the Washington-based Council on Foundations.

"If you make the fight against AIDS a top priority, I wager that governments and the general public will not be far behind. And so that is the challenge right here."

Last Friday, Annan proposed a super fund capable of halting and reversing the spread of AIDS, which has killed nearly 22 million people in Africa alone. He told an African summit in Nigeria that another $7 billion to $10 billion a year would be needed to finance a global assault on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Only about $1 billion a year is spent currently. "We are not spending anywhere near what is required on AIDS. In fact, the amount of money being spent on the epidemic, on a problem this size, is pitiful," he told a news conference after his speech.

Annan's plan is not only to increase spending but to coordinate efforts between developing nations, industrialized countries, non-governmental organizations and private donors.

Although most monies are expected to come from governments, Annan viewed his appearance before the Council on Foundations, an umbrella group of 1,800 foundations and corporations involved in philanthropy, as a way to mobilize public opinion.

The project already has drawn support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- funded by the chairman of the software giant Microsoft Corp. -- which spent more than $1 billion on health projects around the world last year.

"You can act as levers and advocates, stimulating others to emulate your generosity," Annan said. "You have the flexibility to provide funds quickly, and use them to plug gaps, where other institutions may be held back by political considerations, or by the terms of their mandates."

Enthusiastic Response

His remarks brought an enthusiastic response from council members who admit that the international AIDS crisis is a new sphere for many in the philanthropic arena.

"It was an eye-opening speech, I think, for a lot of the members of the council," said Paul Di Dinato, who heads a group made up of foundations concerned about the AIDS pandemic.

He said foundation spending on AIDS and HIV could easily rise to $200 million within three years.

The 50,000 grant-making foundations in the United States gave an estimated $27.6 billion overall in 2000, according to the New York-based Foundation Center, which bills itself as the leading authority on institutional philanthropy.

But the foundations spent less than $100 million on AIDS-related projects last year.

Annan made clear that the "heavy lifting" on funds would have to come from industrialized nations including the United States, where Bush administration officials are reported to be scrutinizing a Senate bill to double AIDS-related U.S. foreign assistance to $1 billion annually.

"Given the size of the U.S. economy, and their leadership in the world, I hope they will pay a substantial portion," Annan told reporters.

The Group of Seven industrial nations intends to take up the issue at its annual summit in Genoa, Italy, in July.

Details on the global fund are still vague. U.N. officials say it will have an independent director and board to evaluate programs in various African countries and possibly Asia and eastern European, where the pandemic is spreading rapidly.

Its purpose is to pull together all the initiatives into "one clear proposal" with five main goals: prevention, combating transmission from mother to child, care and treatment within everyone's reach, research for a cure against AIDS, and special care for the more than 13 million "AIDS orphans."


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Information in this article was accurate in April 30, 2001. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.