AIDS needs funds
With no champion of global AIDS in their midst, Senate Democrats are set to deflate the Global AIDS Fund during budget deliberations in the next two weeks. Present Senate recommendations are less than the paltry $200 million sum proposed by George Bush. This should be a matter of great concern to everyone on the planet.
Every day 10,000 people, mostly African, die of AIDS. There are 16,000 new HIV infections daily. This is a global cataclysm on the scale of the Holocaust, major plagues, and world wars. With the death toll approaching 23 million, Africa is facing it's own Hiroshima on a weekly basis.
As a solution U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and scientific experts have called for a $9.2 billion annual Global Health Fund to seriously treat AIDS, malaria and TB. To date only $1.6 billion is pledged. Ironically $1.6 billion is Africa's debt service to developing countries in seven weeks. The rock group U2, a major champion of the "drop the debt" movement, has organized a global AIDS fundraiser CD due out this fall.
According to Annan the US contribution to the Fund should be $2-3 billion as we account for 30 percent of the global economy. George Bush dismayed everyone, including Colin Powell, when he set the bar low at a $200 million donation, 67 cents per American. Norway pledged $25 per person, Sweden, $7 per person. Nigeria pledged $1 million, a significant amount from a country which can afford to treat only 15,000 of over 2 million infected by purchasing bulk generics from India.
Senate Democrats pledged $50 to $100 million for next year. The bipartisan House leadership of Barbara Lee and Jim Leach is asking for up to $750 million. Full $2 billion funding has been endorsed by the National Council of Churches, the AFL-CIO, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.
What is to be done? Call Senators Boxer, Feinstein, and Speaker Tom Daschle at 202-224-3121. Say you want them to champion a $2 billion donation to the Global AIDS Fund. Also tell them you want the Fund to buy generic drugs at the lowest world price. This will treat four to 40 times more people than would buying at US pharmaceutical market prices.
Sign Oxfam's on line petition: www.oxfam.org.uk/health, which calls on the World Trade Organization to recognize that public health emergencies take precedence over patent rights. Fifty one developing countries plus Norway have endorsed this idea. The United States and Switzerland are actively proposing support for pharmaceutical manufacturers' patent rights and obscene profit margins. For 20 years the pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable industry in the world according to Fortune Magazine.
Your Senators need to know how you want tax dollars spent. Every $300 to purchase generic AIDS, malaria and TB treatments will alleviate the suffering of one person and hold out hope to millions.