Bush Says AIDS Initiative Funding Request Less Than $3B So Program Could Have Time To ‘Ramp Up’; Promises Full Funding
President Bush during a Rose Garden press conference yesterday said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in funding for the first year of the global AIDS initiative in order to give the program time to "ramp up," Reuters reports. Bush said, "We sent up something less than $3 billion because we didn't think the program could ramp up fast enough to absorb that amount of money early," adding, "It ramps up more in the out-years, as the program is capable of absorbing a lot of money" (Reuters, 7/30). Bush in May signed into law in a measure (HR 1298) that authorizes $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The House so far has approved a total of $2 billion for the AIDS initiative in FY 2004, an increase of about $500 million over FY 2003 AIDS spending (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/24). The $2 billion represents only two-thirds of the $3 billion authorized in HR 1298 but fulfills Bush's budget request of $2 billion (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/11). The Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month approved an $18.1 billion FY 2004 foreign aid spending bill, including $1.4 billion to fight AIDS. Additional money for the initiative is expected to be included in other spending bills. In addition, the Senate on July 10 passed a nonbinding resolution calling for $3 billion to be appropriated in FY 2004 to fight AIDS overseas, even if the amount exceeds the ceiling mandated in Congress's annual budget resolution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/24). Bush said, "It doesn't make any sense to load up on antiretrovirals if the distribution system won't get them out. In other words, there's some things some countries have to do to prepare for the arrival of a lot of money." He added, "The commitment is there, absolutely" (White House transcript, 7/30). Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said in a statement that Bush's remarks were "misleading regarding the capacity of affected communities to use additional resources. These resources are urgently needed, precisely in order to improve the distribution channels the president said were lacking" (GAA release, 7/30).A video clip of Bush's comments is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.