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Bill Clinton speaks at int’l AIDS conference
Question of the Day
VIENNA (AP) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton called for more efficient use of funding in the fight against AIDS to ensure that people who need it actually get it.
Clinton made the comments Monday at an international AIDS conference in Austria’s capital, Vienna.
He said that in many countries, foreign assistance, including money for AIDS, is misspent and that funding should go directly to local organizations and national plans in developing countries that can effectively deliver services at a lower cost and less overhead than established organizations.
“I think in too many countries too much money goes to pay for too many people to go to too many meetings, get on too many airplanes,” Clinton said, adding that too much is spent on studies and reports that sit on shelves.
“Keep in mind that every dollar we waste today puts a life at risk,” he said.
The Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of the biggest funders of AIDS programs, has in the past found evidence of fraud in countries’ health programs and suspended their funds as a result _ as well as trying to demand their money back. That includes countries like Uganda and Zambia.
Clinton also called on aid groups to remember that the world was “awash in trouble” and hurting under the impact of the financial crisis.
“It is easy to rail at a government and say why doesn’t the government give us more money if they’re giving somebody else money,” he said. “But the government gets its money in most of these countries from tax payers who have lower incomes today than they did two years ago.”
In order to have the “moral standing” to ask for more funding, organizations should make governments believe that “we’re doing our job faster, better and cheaper.”
In other comments, Clinton defended President Barack Obama’s efforts on AIDS, saying he is man who tries to keep his commitments.
“You can demonstrate and call the president names or we can go get some more votes in Congress to get some more money,” Clinton said. “My experience is that the second choice is the better one … there is no way the White House will veto an increase in funding for AIDS.”
On Sunday, the head of the conference said world leaders lack the political will to ensure that everyone infected with HIV and AIDS gets treatment.
Julio Montaner _ the president of the International AIDS Society and chairman of the AIDS 2010 conference _ said the G-8 group of rich nations has failed to deliver on a commitment to guarantee universal access and warned this could have dire consequences.
Montaner’s comments to reporters appeared to foreshadow one of the key topics for the weeklong gathering, which organizers say has drawn 20,000 policymakers, experts and advocates to take stock of efforts to fight the disease and generate momentum for the future.
Reflecting the emotional nature of the debate, protesters carrying banners and shouting slogans such as “broken promises kill, show us the money!” and “treat the people!” delayed the start of the opening session.
In 2005, G-8 leaders committed in a communique to developing and implementing an Africa-focused package for HIV prevention, treatment and care with the aim of getting “as close as possible to universal access to treatment for all those who need it by 2010.” They reaffirmed and broadened their commitment a year later in Russia with more detailed financing pledges.
But a G-8 accountability report from the most recent summit of world leaders in Canada last month acknowledged that the “universal access targets with respect to HIV/AIDS will not be met by 2010.”
Among the issues to be discussed by participants through Friday are the decriminalization of drug users, as well as the growing AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Montaner accused governments from some Eastern European states of indifference to the acute situations in their countries and said their absence at the Vienna meeting was “irresponsible to the point of criminal negligence.”
According to the World Health Organization, 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008. While the numbers of deaths declined to 2 million in 2008 from 2.2 million in 2004, about 2.7 million new infections still occur each year.
Associated Press writer Maria Cheng contributed to this report from London.
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