Powell Urges European Union to Increase Contribution to Global AIDS Fund
"The E.U. has got to give a lot more," Secretary of State Colin Powell said today in an interview with the Associated Press, voicing his "frustrat[ion] over the bare trickle" of European donations to the Global AIDS and Health Fund as world leaders converge in New York today for the opening ceremonies of the U.N. General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS. "Everybody should be coming up on this, every European country," he added. So far, the fund, which UNAIDS on Friday estimated will need $9.2 billion a year to fight HIV/AIDS in the developing world, has amassed $582 million in donations. The United States has pledged $200 million, while Great Britain and France have added contributions of $100 million and $127 million respectively, with the remainder coming from private donors. Powell "expressed hope" that the special assembly would cause other nations to "ante up" and contribute to the fund. "That's not a bad start but it is nowhere near meeting the need," Powell said, adding that donations need to come from other E.U. members and not just "big, affluent, former colonial powers" such as Britain and France. At the recent meeting between President Bush and E.U. officials in Goteborg, Sweden, Powell said Bush made a "rather passionate" plea for contributions, and Powell shared his assessment of the situation in Africa after his first official visit to the continent last month. "I was very candid. I said, 'You've got to find a way quickly to show your commitment to this,'" he said. Powell holds "no illusions" that international donors will themselves contribute enough money to make a "big difference" in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, he said he hopes the fund will be the start of a "worldwide mobilization" of public and private efforts against the epidemic. The recent announcement of a joint initiative between Coca-Cola and UNAIDS that will utilize Coke's distribution network to disseminate condoms and HIV/AIDS information is one such example, he said. "That kind of involvement is probably as valuable as a financial contribution. A number of companies are now looking for this kind of creative response," he added. Developed nations can also assist by procuring anti-AIDS medicines and helping to build health care infrastructure, as well as providing AIDS education, which Powell said he would like to see "drill[ed] into" children as young as seven, "just like we do here with anti-smoking and other types of campaigns." Strong political leadership in affected nations is also needed, he said, citing Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as an example of someone who "cuts no slack" and "deliver[s] a strong message" on HIV/AIDS. Powell, who along with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is heading the U.S. delegation to the special assembly, will address the session today (Ross, AP/Baltimore Sun, 6/25). The three-day meeting will conclude Wednesday, when delegates are expected to endorse a declaration of commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS on an international level. For a list of scheduled events, click here. Please note: links are available to Web readers only.This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.