WASHINGTON - February 20 - The White House is expected to release soon The long-awaited details of its strategy to fight global AIDS. The announcement is expected today or Monday.
On Meet the Press two weeks ago the President said he accepted what he termed "history's call" to fight AIDS. Yet, President Bush has failed to propose full funding of AIDS legislation for the second straight year.
"We will carefully study the details of this plan," responded Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. Dr. Zeitz lived and worked for six years in Zambia, one of the countries slated to receive U.S. funds.
"We have to ask, 'Is it cost-effective?', said Zeitz. "'Is it a U.S.-go-it-alone plan or will the U.S. work with other nations?'", and 'How does it address the epidemic outside of Africa?'"
Another key issue is whether US funds will be spent on expensive brand-name medications. The White House had promised to use the cheapest medication available, including generics. But, officials recently suggested they would not use an important generic formulation that combines three drugs into one pill. The price difference is significant, with brand name medication four times as expensive.
"The President could treat many more people using generic medications. They would be easier to administer and a supply is already available," stated Zeitz.
Rather than using U.S. technical expertise to support the work of the Global Fund in affected countries, the President is expected to create a parallel process. "This is an unnecessary duplication of effort," stated Zeitz. The Global Fund is working in 121 countries. President Bush, however, has chosen to focus on 14 countries and propose a 64 percent cut in U.S. funding for the Global Fund.
The White House had a chance to start its plan much earlier. Last July, the Administration fought off attempts in Congress to speed up the initiative using emergency funding.
The President promised his plan would provide AIDS treatment to 2 million people by 2008, but after more than a year he has provided this desperately needed medicine to less than 1 percent of the people he promised to help. In addition, to date his plan provides little to meet the needs of orphans.