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AIDS 2004 - Activists Confront Bush Administration - 2004-07-19


Now that the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok is over, many AIDS activists are viewing the meeting as a confrontation with the Bush administration. While the administration says it does more than any other country to fight HIV/AIDS, including the $15 billion President?s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, PEPFAR, critics say the money?s being misspent.

Robert Dabney is a spokesman for the group Health Gap, one of the activist groups in Bangkok. He told English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua that the Bangkok conference marked a turning point.

He says, ?The turning point occurred because this is the conference where we believe that the arguments that have happened over the last several years, especially since Durban in Africa in 2000, the arguments have been settled and the arguments have been won by, if I might, the good guys.?

Health Gap is sharply critical of the Bush Administration, saying it refuses to fully fund the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It accuses the administration of taking a ?go it alone? policy, which has been criticized by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UNAIDS chief Peter Piot.

The government sent only 50 US scientists to Bangkok compared with 250 at the Barcelona conference two years ago. Officials say it?s a matter of saving money and that funds could be better spent elsewhere. Critics say the US snubbed the conference because Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was shouted down when he spoke in Barcelona. In Bangkok, Randall Tobias, the administration?s Global AIDS Coordinator, met the same fate. Mr. Dabney says if the US delegation was reduced because of what happened in Barcelona, then it was a ?childish? act on the part of the administration.

Click above links to listen to interview.

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