AFRICA: Activists cautiously welcome Bush pledge
AFRICA: Activists cautiously welcome Bush pledge JOHANNESBURG, 31 January (PLUSNEWS) - The enthusiasm surrounding this week's proposal by US President George W Bush to triple government spending on HIV/AIDS in Africa has been tempered with calls from activists for more practical details. In his State of the Union address earlier this week, Bush urged Congress to approve US $15 billion in funds to battle HIV/AIDS in the hardest-hit countries in Africa and the Caribbean over the next five years. Bush outlined a plan that would provide antiretroviral drugs to 2 million HIV-positive people in Africa, prevent an estimated 7 million new HIV infections, and build social programmes to assist children orphaned by the disease. But activists were cautiously optimistic. "The exact details of the president's plan for global AIDS are still unclear. We could be shipping AIDS medications to hospitals and clinics next month, not promising to treat two million people in five years," treatment lobby group, Act-Up Philadelphia said in a statement. Despite being hopeful that the initiative would mark the beginning of a new level of determination in US AIDS policy and increased funding, the Global AIDS Alliance expressed concern that the president's proposal would not include the amount needed this year to scale up the response to the pandemic. "And it is just as vital that this new plan not rob funds from other effective programmes to assist poor countries - we need to see the details before we can be certain this is, in fact, new money," the NGO said. Lobbyists also criticised the White House failure to increase funding for the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "The Global Fund is the most important vehicle in the effort to fight the pandemic and the US should contribute a far greater share. The new commitment of only $1 billion to the Fund, over a period of 5 years, would actually undermine Africa's greatest hope," lobby group Africa Action said at a press conference on Wednesday. But overall everyone agreed the US proposal was a significant development in global efforts to increase funding for HIV/AIDS. "This initiative, should spur other wealthy countries to increase their support for global AIDS efforts," UNAIDS executive director Dr Peter Piot said. [ENDS] IRIN-SA Tel: +27 11 880-4633 Fax: +27 11 447-5472 Email: [This Item is Delivered to the "PlusNews" HIV/AIDS Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.] Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003