Activists accuse Bush of breaking AIDS promise


Sat, Jul 26, 2003 - Page 6

AIDS activists were outraged and analysts said US credibility in the region would be hurt after the US House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday authorizing a billion dollars less in AIDS funding than they had expected.

US President George W. Bush signed a bill in May calling for US$15 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. However, the White House later asked for US$2 billion in funding for next year and threatened to veto a final foreign aid bill that shifted money to global AIDS.

The bill didn't specify how Congress was going to produce the US$15 billion, but activists had expected US$3 billion a year over the five-year period.

The House approved US$2 billion as requested early Thursday. The Republican-led Senate is to consider bills that also authorize US$2 billion for the 2004 fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.

"It's betrayal of those orphans that he hugged and the people dying of AIDS that he comforted," said Paul Zietz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, referring to a visit that Bush made to an AIDS clinic in Uganda two weeks ago where he repeated his pledge to spend US$15 billion to fight AIDS in the next five years.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was happy the money was authorized and was committed to the US$15 billion pledge.

"The president proposed a US$15 billion emergency plan to provide relief to those who are suffering and help turn the tide against the scourge of AIDS. We are pleased that Congress is moving forward to pass funding at the level needed to get things up and running," he said.