Obama criticised for HIV funds cut

May 20, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 20 – Local and International NGO’s have raised concern over United States President Barack Obama’s decision to ask for $3.3 billion less in the budget to support HIV/AIDS programmes.

They said on Tuesday that this was a sharp contrast to what he had promised in his campaigns – to double the fund aid by 2012.

Washington Based Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director, Paul Zeitz, said the US president asked for $5 billion for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and $900 million for the Global Fund.

“He spoke repeatedly in the campaign that he would increase the PEPFAR fund by about a billion dollars per year and also pledged to increase the Global fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” said Dr Zeitz.

“On those two issues President Obama has not kept his promises. PEPFAR and the Global Fund are like airplanes, they have to have forward momentum or else they stall in mid air and they risk crashing,” he added.

James Kamau of the Kenya Treatment Action Movement however said that considering the global recession, there was need for African governments to also take the initiative.

“We also need the African governments to start walking the talk. They have pledged 15 percent of budget to health and they don’t do it because they get bilateral funding like PEPFAR and others,” Mr Kamau said.

“Let us remember that while we are appealing to President Obama, this is a presidential emergency fund and it’s not a permanent fund so we need to know how we are going to sustain this in the long term.”

The organisations said that for the fiscal year 2010, President Obama requested $51.7 billion for the ‘150 Account’, which funds all US foreign affairs priorities.

“This budget request sets the Obama administration on a path to breaking its campaign promises to the people of Africa and to falling short on its commitments to reassert US moral leadership worldwide,” said Dr Zeitz.

“He now has three weeks prior to a congress meeting to rectify this,” he added.

The organisations now claim that as a result of President Obama’s first budget request, one million people around the world will not receive treatment for AIDS, 2.9 million women will not receive services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV and a further 1.9 million orphans and other children affected by HIV/AIDS will not receive care.

PEPFAR was launched in 2003 by the then President George Bush to combat global HIV/AIDS, and is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history.


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