Boston Globe (10.15.03) - Thursday, October 16, 2003
The Bush administration and the British government are pushing
for a slowdown in spending by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
TB and Malaria. The debate will take place at a closed meeting
of the Global Fund in Thailand this week, and its impact could
be far-reaching, officials said Tuesday. In three rounds of
funding, the Global Fund has committed more than $3 billion so
"Any effort to slow things down at this point would be
disastrous," said Jim Yong Kim, a senior advisor to WHO
Director- General Jong-Wook Lee. "Round four has to be right
now. There's enough money to start."
The Bush administration has argued for AIDS funding to
gradually increase in the coming years in part because many
countries cannot absorb huge amounts of new money. But Kim
responds that millions of dollars could be spent wisely now on
infrastructure - mainly health workers' salaries and training
- so health systems can handle AIDS' impact.
Administration officials have declined to speak publicly about
their concerns. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy
Thompson chairs the Global Fund's board; his spokesperson said
the administration will not debate the matter in the media.
But one senior US health official, who asked not to be named,
and WHO officials said White House officials have become angry
over the attention given to the AIDS-fighting efforts of the
Global Fund and WHO. The US official said the administration
feels its largely bilateral, $15 billion, five-year program
will be the centerpiece of the AIDS fight and should receive
the bulk of credit. The White House earmarked $200 million for
the Global Fund next year, while activists have called for a
$1 billion donation. The House and Senate are working on
legislation that would add another $200 million to $302
million next year.
The meeting in Thailand was shaping up as a relatively quiet
event until Global Fund officials heard from the Bush
administration and British officials about delaying the next
funding round. The fund borrowed $101 million from next year's
pledged donor contributions to finance grants this year. After
word of the US and British objections leaked out, several AIDS
activists groups this week began lobbying Congress and
launched a grassroots campaign to start the fourth funding
round by December.