SUSAN DENTZER: Pres. Bush's recent announcement in his state of the union address of a new initiative on HIV And AIDS, signaled a marked increase in American assistance to fight the global pandemic.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the emergency plan for AIDS relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.
SUSAN DENTZER: An estimated 42 million people worldwide are now infected with HIV. More than 20 million have already died, and as many as 68 million more deaths are forecast by 2020. To help fight the pandemic, Pres. Bush proposes spending a total of $15 billion over the next five years, $10 billion more than his administration had previously planned on the effort. The money would be used in part for prevention programs to stem new infections from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It would also help speed anti-viral drugs and other treatment to AIDS sufferers. Under the president's plan, 12 out of 48 sub-Saharan African nations would benefit, and to two Caribbean nations, Haiti and Guyana.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than four million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims, only 50,000, are receiving the medicine they need. Many hospitals tell people, you've got AIDS, we can't help you. Go home and die. In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words. (Applause)
SUSAN DENTZER: Far and away the largest share of the money would be contributed directly by the U.S. to other countries, such as through programs sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The president signaled that much of that money would go to purchase generic versions of the so-called anti-retroviral drugs that have drastically cut AIDS deaths in developed nations.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.
SUSAN DENTZER: But analysts say that broader use of generics also raises the possibility of conflict with U.S. trade policies; those have traditionally been aimed at protecting the patents of us pharmaceutical manufacturers.
By contrast to the large sums of money the president wants to spend on direct bilateral assistance to other countries, he proposes to channel just $1 billion over the five-year period through the so-called global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. That's a multinational arrangement created two years ago to make grants supporting prevention and treatment plans put forward by affected countries themselves.
The fund had earlier asked the U.S. for a much larger contribution of $2.2 billion over a two-year period. Separately, the Global Fund announced recently that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson had been elected to head the fund's board of directors.