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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
US and Britain Look to Slow Pace of Spending on AIDS
John Donnelly
October 16, 2003
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 far.

"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.