Bush signs international AIDS bill
In a ceremony at the State Department, President Bush on Monday signed a bill that will provide $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The House and Senate last week agreed to final terms of the legislation, which earmarks one third of prevention funding for programs that teach abstinence as the preferred method to prevent HIV infections. Up to $1 billion a year will be donated to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The bill would direct 55% of U.S. international AIDS funds to treatment programs, 20% to prevention efforts, 15% to palliative care, and 10% to programs serving AIDS orphans. White House sources say Bush will use the new program as leverage to encourage other wealthy developed countries to fund international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs when he attends a G8 summit meeting in Evian, France, June 1-3.
"We believe in the value and dignity of every human life," Bush said at the bill-signing ceremony. "We are the nation of the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, and the Peace Corps, and now we are the nation of the emergency plan for AIDS relief. I will challenge our partners and our friends to follow our lead and to make a similar commitment made by the United States of America so we can save even more lives. I will remind them that time is not on our side."
Congress still must approve the bill's funding levels through the appropriations process, and it's not clear whether the recommended $3 billion in aid for fiscal 2004 will be available. Bush's current proposed budget recommends only $1.7 billion in funding, slightly more than half the amount called for under the international AIDS program. Lawmakers are expected to try to raise that amount, but it's unclear where the extra funds will come from given competing demands from rising military and Homeland Security costs, an expanding budget deficit, and the recently approved $350 billion tax cut measure. Also, the $1 billion annual U.S. contribution to the global fund is contingent upon other nations donating at least $2 billion to the group each year. The international AIDS bill says that U.S. contributions to the fund can account for no more than one third of the organization's overall yearly budget.