WASHINGTON -- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has been chosen as chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, AIDS campaigners and sources said yesterday.
Mr. Thompson, who will keep his current job, will chair board meetings and work to raise the profile of the fund, the sources said. They said he would be formally named to the new job today at the fund's headquarters in Geneva.
A spokesman at HHS said he could not confirm the report.
AIDS activists said the decision is ironic.
They have criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for his decision to give the fund less than requested. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Mr. Bush announced a $15-billion (U.S.), five-year plan to fight AIDS in Africa, Haiti and Guyana, but designated only $1-billion of it to go to the fund.
The rest will be used in separate programs the United States will set up independently with 14 chosen countries.
"Secretary Thompson will be chosen to chair the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS a day after a generous presidential AIDS initiative largely sideswiped the Global Fund," Asia Russell, director of international policy at the AIDS lobby group Health GAP, said in a statement.
"If the U.S. is going to buy the chairmanship, they could at least use real money," she added.
The fund has asked for $3.5-billion a year from the United States. The United States gave $200-million last year and Mr. Bush's plan would add $200-million a year.
The fund was set up in 2001 as a kind of global war chest against the three infectious diseases by the United Nations and the G8 group of industrialized nations.
They noted that AIDS, TB and malaria kill nearly six million people each year, mostly in developing nations.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said $7-billion to $10-billion a year is needed to fight AIDS. The UN estimates that $2-billion a year is needed to fight TB and malaria.
As of December, 2002, the fund had collected $2.15-billion in pledges from governments, corporations, foundations and individuals.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd