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Obama Criticized Over AIDS Funding

  • Joe DeCapua

The head of the Global AIDS Alliance has sharply criticized President Obama, saying Mr. Obama has failed to meet his funding promises for HIV/AIDS.

Paul Zeitz says President Obama is not nearly as involved in the issue as his predecessors George Bush or Bill Clinton. The State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator strongly rejects the charges, calling them inaccurate.

Zeitz says, “Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not kept its word in terms of the AIDS response, globally, and particularly in Africa. President Obama made commitments during the [presidential] campaign to increase spending on global AIDS that he has not matched with his action.”

Zeitz says he and others have been “dialoguing with the administration and encouraging them to review their policies. And we’re hopeful they may do that. But at this point they seem to be very much off track.”

Economic crisis

He rejects arguments that the global economic crisis should affect the amount of money allocated to HIV/AIDS.

“My view is that President Obama gave his word that he would provide a billion dollars per year of increased spending on global AIDS. He committed to doubling foreign aid, including aid to Africa. That’s about a $25 billion increase,” says Zeitz.

The Global AIDS Alliance head goes on to criticize Mr. Obama, saying, “He has no integrity because he’s not kept those promises because of the financial crisis being the excuse.”

Zeitz says Mr. Obama managed to come up with “a trillion dollars for the Wall Street bankers in about 30 days. We’re asking for a small amount of money compared to what he has been able to generate when he actually took the time to work on it.”

Zeitz says most of the discussions with the administration are lower level, unlike those with the Bush and Clinton administrations, which saw direct presidential involvement.

“President Bush himself and his inner circle were working on the [President’s] Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR],” he says.

“[This] administration is focused on the three Ds – defense, diplomacy and development. And they’re just not implementing their development initiative hardly at all,” he says.

Administration response

A State Department spokesperson says, “First, in a very tight fiscal environment, President Obama requested increases for PEPFAR in both the fiscal year 2010 and 2011 budgets, and $63 billion over six years for the Global Health Initiative, of which PEPFAR is the cornerstone.”

The spokesperson adds, “Second, the administration has not only released a comprehensive document outlining the Global Health Initiative, with specific targets for preventing maternal-child HIV transmissions, but also a comprehensive PEPFAR five-year strategy.”

In addressing the levels of funding, the spokesperson says, “What matters is not dollars, but what we are doing to save lives and improve the quality of life of millions of people now suffering from preventable and treatable diseases… That is what presents the most promise to prevent HIV/AIDS transmissions, treat those living with HIV and other illnesses, and improve the health of millions.”