Bush's decrease in AIDS funding in new budget angers some activists
President Bush is scheduled to release his fiscal year 2005 budget on Monday, which will include a lower-than-expected contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Under the proposed budget, the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund would be reduced from $550 million in 2004 to $200 million in 2005, according to congressional officials who have been briefed on the budget proposal, The New York Times reports.
Funding for the first installment of Bush's five-year, $15 billion global AIDS initiative is contained in an omnibus spending bill, which the Senate passed late last week. The bill includes $2.4 billion for international AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria initiatives. House-Senate conferees in November agreed to increase fiscal year 2004 federal spending on international AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria initiatives to $2.4 billion, $400 million more than the Bush administration had requested.
Overall, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria funding in the fiscal year 2005 budget proposal would total almost $2.7 billion, including a funding increase for bilateral programs--from $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion. However, the total amount is less than the $3 billion that AIDS advocates expected after Bush announced the initiative in his 2003 State of the Union address, according to the Times.
Jamie Drummond, executive director of the debt, AIDS, and trade advocacy group DATA, told Reuters news service that the Administration is "robbing Peter to pay Paul," and he cautioned that a reduction in funding could weaken the Global Fund's support of programs already in place in addition to new grants. A White House spokesperson said that Bush is not "backing away" from his pledge to support the Global Fund. He said that the fund is "an important part of the president's plan and there will be a steady and sustained commitment" to it.