Contra Costa Times

November 15, 2004


Give promised funds

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is on the verge of once again short-changing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. That should not happen.

Back in 2003 Bush pledged $1 billion to the Global Fund, then not a month later reduced the promise to only $200 million. This year, even as he started his own AIDS program, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which diverts money from Global Fund, the president has boasted of the positive role the United States plays in Global Fund.

Yet now, the United States is threatening to withhold $69 million of this year's budget because of a technicality, which undercuts efforts of other nation's allied with the program. U.S. funds need to be matched 2-1 by other nations. Much of the money is pledged, but because it was not in the bank on Sept. 30, Bush's appointee, Randall Tobias, may withhold the money.

Global Fund says that could mean 25,000 people will go untreated, and 100,000 new cases of AIDS will not be prevented. Also, it's another twist of the knife by the United States to Global Fund's mission.

This diminishes the group's reliability, and it sends the wrong message to the world about our seriousness in fighting these deadly diseases.

Tobias' close link to the pharmaceutical industry (he headed Eli Lilly) already has raised questions about the United States' commitment.

And the president's program will not and cannot make up for the losses endured by the Global Fund. His program is not established and settled, its approach is limited, and it only focuses on 15 nations; Global Fund operates in 128.

Undercutting Global Fund does nothing to make the world healthier or to enrich communities or nations. Undermining an operational and successful program does not show the United States as caring and compassionate.

The 2005 budget already calls for giving the agency less money than it had hoped; our representatives and administration can say the words now that will not make this fiscal year any more difficult for Global Fund to perform its mission.

Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder