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Clinton Urges US Aid Recipients to Step-Up Efforts on Health

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday said the Obama administration intends to further increase the United States' world-leading support for global health programs. But she said the United States has a right to expect commensurate efforts by recipient countries.

Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration's commitment to a multi-year $63-billion effort to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and child mortality under the Global Health Initiative announced by President Obama in May of last year.

But she said with American taxpayers still battling high unemployment and other effects of the deep recession, the United States is looking to recipient countries to "step up" with their own "deep commitment" on public health issues.

"We've seen the United States and other countries come in with money and other countries actually take money away from health, thinking that we're going to make up the difference," said Hillary Clinton. "The United States is willing to invest our money, our time and our expertise to improve health in countries. But we are now asking their governments to demonstrate a similar commitment in terms of human resources, serious pledges to build capacity, and where feasible, financial support."

Clinton who spoke at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, avoided criticism of any current governments but did note the denial, by past South African leaders, of the link between the HIV virus and AIDS.

She expressed relief that the new government of President Jacob Zuma has come forward with what she termed a real commitment to battling one of the world's highest burdens of HIV.

"Leadership matters," said Ms. Clinton. "It matters enormously. For years the South African leadership unfortunately was in denial, or it was refusing to accept the facts about HIV/AIDS. And the epidemic exploded in South Africa, which now has the highest percentage of HIV infected people anywhere in the world. President Zuma has changed that."

Clinton said despite harsh party politics in Washington, support for international health aid is bipartisan and she paid tribute to the previous Bush administration for "ground-breaking" work in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria.

She said that although the United States provides 40 percent of the world's total funding for development assistance for health, that story, in her words, is not "told as often or as thoroughly as it should be."

The secretary said the Global Health Initiative will build on Bush administration efforts, with an increased focus on among other things maternal health care including family planning.

"Family planning represents one of the most cost-effective public health interventions available in the world today," said Hillary Clinton. "It prevents both maternal and child deaths by helping women space their births and bear children during their healthiest years. And it reduces the death of woman from unsafe abortions."

Clinton said as part of the effort the United States is encouraging countries to pass laws or more stringently enforce existing laws against child marriage.