The board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria on Thursday elected Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson as the fund's new board chairman. Thompson was the only candidate for the position after Sweden's Lennarth Hjelmaker dropped out. Thompson will serve as chief fund-raiser for the organization, soliciting donations from wealthy countries, including the United States, which has come under fire from global AIDS activists for not contributing enough to the fund. The current chairman, Chrispus Kiyonga of Uganda, did not seek reelection.
Thompson's election to the global fund's board came just three days after President Bush pledged to boost spending on international AIDS efforts to a total of $15 billion over five years. But most of that money will go to prevention and treatment programs in 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean, with only about $1 billion in new allocations going to the global fund over five years. Global fund executive director Richard Feachem said that Thompson's appointment has "no automatic connection with a greater U.S. financial contribution."
AIDS activists are upset and concerned over Thompson's election. Asia Russell, director of international policy for the Health GAP Coalition, called the situation "unacceptable" and said it "sends the message that if you flatline the fund, you get a pat on the back. If the U.S. is going to buy the chairmanship, they could at least use real money." Joanne Carter of the international citizens advocacy organization Results called Thompson's election "ironic" because she said Thompson comes from an administration that has "missed a huge opportunity" in adequately supporting the fund.