Obama Looks To Cut Global AIDS Funding


Let’s imagine that President Bush was looking to cut funding for global AIDS programs: this would be all over the news. Yet, since it is (NMP) Obama doing this, it has mostly been ignored. Go ahead, try searching, see if the story is in other media outlets, other than this one from WRAL, sourced from Bloomberg, which I just happened to noticed when looking at the local news on my ‘Droid Sunday afternoon

(WRAL) Facing a growing deficit and political demands to cut spending, the Obama administration is planning to scale back U.S. support of global AIDS programs and pushing to unload some of the burden on other countries.

This week there is a big AIDS conference in Washington, D.C., the first time in 22 years. Of course, Obama is mailing it in by offering a video address, rather than attending.

Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, more than tripled U.S. funding for global treatment during the last five years of his administration through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, or PEPFAR. With that increase, U.S. funding covered about 59 percent of all donations for global AIDS relief, according to Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy for the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, of Menlo Park, California.

In 2010, the year after Obama took office, the PEPFAR budget was $6.9 billion, including money to combat tuberculosis, the leading killer of AIDS patients. Next year, the funding will fall to $6.4 billion, if Obama’s proposed budget is enacted. The administration believes other countries need to step up and help carry the financial load in the future, according to Eric Goosby, Obama’s Global AIDS Coordinator.

Good news for global AIDS funding, Obama’s budget won’t be enacted, since even the Democrat controlled Senate refuses to hold a vote on it.

What the Obama administration wants to do is get other countries to “pay their fair share”. Sound familiar? I guess Obama sees no votes in keeping the funding going. Interestingly, President Bush had an opinion piece in the Washington Post the other day on the global AIDS fight

Some 25,000 delegates are gathering in Washington this week for the 2012 International AIDS Conference. This is a moment of exceptional promise. Gains in AIDS treatment are remarkable – and continuing.

One of the saddest tragedies in the world is for people to die of HIV/AIDS when lifesaving medicines are available. Just a decade ago, that tragedy was playing out across Africa. Thanks to the generosity of the American people, this is no longer the case today. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis – working with committed governments, faith-based and community organizations, and the private sector – treatment and prevention have advanced at an almost unimaginable pace. This month, the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) announced that 6.2 million people are on lifesaving antiretroviral AIDS drugs in sub-Saharan Africa – up from just 100,000 in 2003. This is more than a vast statistic. It is a series of real people’s names – those of nurses, doctors, civil servants, farmers, students, entrepreneurs and parents who did not leave orphans behind. It is proof of what many in Africa call the Lazarus effect: Communities once given up for dead have been brought back to life, and millions of men, women and children are alive to build their futures.

You know what Bush doesn’t do? Give himself a constant big pat on the back. He gives credit to the American people. And to “UNAIDS, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and private-sector partners. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a consistent champion of this effort.”

During the past decade, millions of lives have been saved and changed. This has been a global effort. It would be a sad and terrible thing if the world chose this moment to lose its focus and will. Other countries and local governments in Africa can do more in providing resources and increasing funding – as the new government of Zambia is doing. But to continue the momentum in the fight against AIDS, America must continue to lead. Having seen the need and accepted the challenge, we can’t turn our backs now.

Yes, it would be great if other countries pitched in. But, the US needs to lead from the front, not from behind. Leading from behind is following.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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