‘Political Quagmire’ Holds Up Foreign Aid Needed to Fight HIV/AIDS in Haiti
The "political quagmire" that has resulted from the contested May 2000 parliamentary elections in Haiti has prompted U.S. and international officials to suspend $500 million in foreign aid to the Caribbean nation, some of which is needed for HIV/AIDS programs, Reuters/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. According to Haitian Public Health Minister Henri Claude Voltaire, freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government has a "detailed plan for fighting AIDS from 2002 through 2006," but the "ambitious" plan cannot be fully implemented without $22 million in foreign aid. "We need the loans so we can have clinics throughout the country to provide free testing and assistance to people in their own communities," first lady Mildred Aristide said, noting that Haiti has two clinics in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and a clinic in the capital of each of the country's nine provinces. The HIV/AIDS funding is "still dependent on the re-running of the May 2000 elections, as if AIDS were a political issue," Voltaire said, adding that there is no "effective reason whatsoever" why foreign officials have not released the funds. However, U.S. Department of State officials said that although they have allocated $4 million to non-governmental agencies in Haiti, they do not intend to release more aid in the near future. "The government of Haiti has not made sufficient progress in implementing President Aristide's commitment to resolve flawed elections ... strengthen democracy, address security and migration issues and improve respect for human rights," state department officials explained. Negotiations are underway to repeat some of the elections, but it is not known if or when they will take place. About 4.5% of Haiti's population of eight million people are HIV-positive, the highest rate in the Caribbean (Deibert, Reuters/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/23).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.