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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
AIDS Draws New Attention; Thompson Pledges Added Funding as
Craig Gilbert
April 18, 2002
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (04.15.02) - Thursday, April 18,

Back this week from a firsthand look at the African AIDS pandemic, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson confessed he was "somewhat discouraged by the magnitude of the problem. It's absolutely a moral and spiritual imperative on our part as Americans to do what we can," said Thompson.

Such sentiments are being heard more often in Washington. Sen. Jesse Helms wants to add $500 million in US aid to an upcoming emergency spending bill on anti-terrorism. He is part of a broader group of lawmakers � from African-American Democrats to conservative Republicans � who are pushing for more international AIDS funding. Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who chairs a subcommittee on Africa, said, "The moral imperative of it is starting to overwhelm people." A December Better World Foundation poll recently announced that 54 percent of Americans called the spread of AIDS in Africa an "extremely serious" problem, and 45 percent said the US was spending too little internationally on the crisis.

While the Sept. 11 attacks initially sidetracked the issue here, funding for AIDS programs abroad is now gaining momentum. "It's actually benefiting from 9-11, from the search for instruments in promoting security and stability and making new friends," said J. Stephen Morrison, head of the HIV/AIDS task force at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Media attention has grown, with celebrities such as rock stars Bono and Elton John and actor Danny Glover crusading for AIDS funding. Evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son, has also taken up the issue. And the interest of Thompson and Secretary of State Colin Powell has led to more engagement in the crisis, said Morrison.

Bush has offered $500 million over two years to the UN Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and an additional $902 million in AIDS funds to be spent directly by US agencies. Feingold said it's "way too small of a commitment for a country like ours." "We are doing our part," Thompson said. "This is a problem for the world community." The US commitment is about one-quarter of all international pledges to the fund. Thompson is the US Government's representative on the global fund's board, which meets in New York April 22 to begin making its first rounds of grants.