Associated Press (10.28.03) - Wednesday, October 29, 2003
In the Senate on Tuesday, no member objected when Sen. Jeff
Sessions (R-Ala.) proposed amending a foreign aid package to
ensure that at least $75 million from the global AIDS bill
would go toward the problem of unsafe medical injections in
Africa. Sessions had been concerned that health officials
wanted to use nearly all of the $15 billion in the AIDS bill
to curb sexual transmission of the disease.
Sessions said conservative estimates show that as many as
1,000 people a day in Africa die from unsafe medical
treatment. Sessions said his amendment, which would be one of
the few mandates from Congress on how the Bush administration
should spend the AIDS money, "could save hundreds of thousands
Sessions said he is convinced the World Health Organization
has long underestimated the percentage of African HIV cases
caused by tainted injections and transfusions. While WHO has
assumed 2.5 percent of the cases are medical in nature, most
studies show it to be much higher - above 40 percent in at
least two. The conflicting research has created division among
experts, even within WHO. Some want to direct money toward
syringe distribution and blood safety; others fear this would
dilute the focus on unsafe sex, which is largely undisputed as
the lead cause of AIDS in Africa.
Sessions contends the $15 billion bill, which President Bush
signed in May, should focus on both causes. Under his
proposal, at least $46 million would be spent on blood safety,
and $29 million on injection safety.
Because there was no roll call vote, it is unclear how many
senators realized what the amendment would do. The House has
already approved its version of the foreign operations bill;
Sessions' amendment could face challenges when negotiators
come together to resolve differences.