Clark Announces AIDS Funding Plan While in Florida; Calls for $30B Over Five Years, Criticizes Bush AIDS Policy
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark on Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in recognition of World AIDS Day recommended that the United States double its spending on global AIDS and other diseases to $30 billion over five years, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports (Nevins, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 12/2). Clark's four-part strategy, which he is calling his "Global AIDS Security Policy," would double the U.S. commitment to fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and allocate a large majority of the funding to multilateral approaches such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Clark's plan would offer financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines for AIDS and other infectious diseases, according to a Clark fact sheet. The five-year plan would be partially subsidized by rescinding recent tax cuts, Clark aides said. The plan would also overturn the so-called "global gag rule." The policy, which is also known as the Mexico City policy, bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/1). Clark said that fighting HIV/AIDS worldwide is "not just a moral issue," adding, "It's a national security issue." Clark added that the United States must respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis to retain gains made in developing countries and prevent countries highly affected by the epidemic from becoming "terrorist breeding grounds," the Sun-Sentinel reports. Clark said, "By destroying governments and hollowing out societies, this pandemic provides the perfect conditions for terrorist movements that thrive in areas of chaos and misery."
Criticism of Bush Plan
Clark also criticized President Bush's commitment to his global AIDS initiative, saying that the plan had been weakened by Bush's allegiance to "far right groups," the Sun-Sentinel reports (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 12/2). Although the measure (HR 1298) supporting Bush's five-year, $15 billion initiative authorizes $3 billion for the first year of the program, the Bush administration requested only $2 billion. Bush said that his administration requested less than $3 billion in order to give the program time to "ramp up." House-Senate conferees last month agreed to increase federal spending on the global AIDS initiative for fiscal year 2004 to $2.4 billion (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/26). Clark said that Bush's request for $1 billion less than the funding authorized for the global AIDS initiative amounted to a "broken promise," according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "President Bush made a financial commitment to address global AIDS, but didn't budget the money necessary to follow through on his promises," Clark said (Freking, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/2). Republican National Committee spokesperson Chad Colby said that Clark's criticisms of Bush's efforts on AIDS funding were "baseless," according to the AP/Florida Times-Union. "Just like a number of other issues, Medicare, education, you name it, President Bush brings people together and gets results while the Democrats just attack," Colby said (Barton, AP/Florida Times-Union, 12/1).
Other Democratic Presidential Candidates
Other Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and John Edwards (N.C.), also said they would commit to spending $30 billion for global AIDS if elected president (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/2). The Global AIDS Alliance in advance of World AIDS Day announced that all nine Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed a pledge to commit $30 billion to fight AIDS, TB and malaria by 2008 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/1).
Clark's Program 'Truly Bold,' Rev. Jesse Jackson Says
Clark's promise to spend $30 billion over five years on AIDS, TB and malaria represents a "truly bold program," Rev. Jesse Jackson writes in a syndicated column in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jackson says that Bush's initiative has "delayed action" on HIV/AIDS by not working with multilateral programs that have a "proven track record," such as the Global Fund. According to Jackson, Clark would not "spurn" the Global Fund or the World Health Organization in his AIDS initiative, which is the "centerpiece" of what he calls his "preventive engagement policy" to make the United States "a source of hope in the world," Jackson says. "Perhaps it takes a general, knowing the scope and the limits of our military strength, to deal aggressively with a disease of mass destruction," Jackson concludes (Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times, 12/2).
Additional information on World AIDS Day -- including webcasts; access to studies and key facts; and links to resources and organizations around the world -- can be found online on kaisernetwork.org.