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US Calls on Other Nations to Help in AIDS Fight - 2003-03-14

On the heels of President Bush's $15 billion commitment to the fight against AIDS, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson is calling on other nations to do more to combat the disease.

Mr. Thompson met at U.N. headquarters with Secretary-General Kofi Annan to draw attention to the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Mr. Thompson, the new chairman of the Global Fund board of directors, says his visit is intended to convince non-governmental organizations, private companies and the international community to join the United States in increasing contributions to the fund that was created last year.

"Here is a fight of international proportions and the United States is committing 50 percent of the total commitment to the Global Fund and this is going to go to 14 countries in Africa and in the Caribbean, where 50 percent of the AIDS cases are currently," he said. "And it shows me the humanitarian nature and the tremendous commitment that the United States is making and we are asking the rest of the international community to step up and assist us in this terrible fight against this terrible disease."

Although Germany and Ireland made donations in the first year of the fund, Mr. Thompson says that the United States contributed the bulk of the money. The first installment consisted of grants to about 40 countries for over $600 million. The second totaled about $866 million to 60 countries.

This year, the United States has pledged $1 billion dollars to the Global Fund from the $15 billion commitment President Bush announced in his January State of the Union address. President Bush's pledge has drawn controversy because of questions over whether the funds for AIDS and HIV will go to groups that also perform or promote abortions.

Some organizations supporting a woman's right to choose an abortion say the Bush administration is restricting the flow of money for AIDS and HIV to groups that do not support or perform abortions overseas.

Secretary Thompson says he does not believe that the abortion debate will hinder the distribution of the funds to combat AIDS. "I do not believe that the abortion fight is holding it up. There is always going to be an abortion fight every time you are dealing with dollars concerning international matters, but I do not believe that it will interfere with our quest to get dollars in to fight this terrible disease. Some anti-abortion organizations disagree, saying the funds could go to groups that support or perform abortions.