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Britain Pledges More Money for AIDS, TB, Malaria - 2003-05-30

Britain pledged more money to the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Britain's pledge comes days after the United States increased its contribution. Coming just before the G-8 summit in France, it is likely to increase pressure on leaders of the world's other wealthiest nations to do more to fight AIDS.

Britain on Friday promised an additional $80 million over the next seven years to the global fund to combat AIDS in developing nations. This extends Britain's commitment to the fund through 2008 and brings its total pledge to $280 million, which would make Britain the fund's second largest contributor after the United States.

This week, President Bush signed a bill pledging to triple U.S. funding for AIDS relief over the next five years to as much as $15 billion.

But not all of that money is promised directly to the fund, and the level of U.S. contribution is contingent upon matching aid from other nations and non-profit groups in the United States.

The U.S. Congress, for example, has promised to give up to $1 billion directly to the fund next year, but only if that contribution represents no more than one-third of the total money all other nations contribute to the cause.

Simon Wright of ActionAid, one of the UK's largest development agencies, says that while President Bush's aid package does come with qualifications, his announcement is well timed, coming as it does on the eve of the G-8 meeting in Evian, France. "There are a lot more questions about the actions he's taken than he would perhaps like us to be discussing," he said. "But on the other hand, he has given quite a lot of attention to it, he is talking big figures, he is recognizing that HIV and AIDS is very serious. And we do need the other G-8 leaders to respond to that, and to start looking at their own amounts of money they're putting into the Global Fund and into HIV and AIDS generally, and stepping that up."

Mr. Wright says the money nations pledge now will be used for relief projects starting next year and lasting through 2008.

But he says this year the fund is facing a budget shortfall and relief agencies hoping to benefit from the fund's grants will suffer. "The target that was set was to be able to give out $1.6 billion worth of grants," said Simon Wright. "And unfortunately at the moment the fund does not have $1.6 billion. It has about $200 million. So there are going to be a lot of good bids from countries that would have saved people's lives, that would have prevented infections, are just going to be told: we'd like to fund it, it's high quality, but we can't."

The Global Fund estimates that 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, 95 percent of whom live in developing countries.