House committee approves $1.3 billion for international AIDS funding
The House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations on Thursday approved just $1.27 billion in spending for international HIV/AIDS efforts in fiscal year 2004, less than half the amount pledged by President Bush in the recently approved five-year, $15 billion AIDS initiative, The Washington Post reports. Although the amount is a 40% increase over 2003 international AIDS spending levels, it still falls short of the call to devote $3 billion annually to HIV prevention and treatment programs in Africa and the Caribbean. Even when combined with other spending measures approved Thursday by the full House, including $644 million for foreign AIDS research and $155 million to combat other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis and malaria, the total spending package is still about $1 billion short of the AIDS initiative's goal. The Senate, in a separate nonbinding resolution, voted 78-18 Thursday to approve $3 billion in 2004 to fight AIDS in developing nations, but specific spending bills have not yet been introduced.
House subcommittee chair Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who is openly gay, said that spending the full $3 billion in 2004 was "unrealistic" in the initiative's first year since the program is "just getting off the ground" and because measures to ensure full oversight of the spending, including Congressional approval of proposed initiative director Randall Tobias, are still unresolved. But Rep. Nina Lowey (D-N.Y.) said she plans next week to introduce a $1-billion emergency appropriation amendment to boost funding levels for the global initiative to the full $3-billion level. The full House is expected to vote on the foreign aid bill by the end of the month.