- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

NEW YORK — A House committee is considering a dramatic increase in the amount of money the United States spends to fight AIDS around the world, potentially dwarfing the funds committed at a U.N. special session this week.
Leaders of the International Relations Committee reached an agreement, which will be considered by the full panel today, to boost the Bush administration's budgeted aid for fighting the disease in developing nations by about $800 million next year.
Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, and Democrats Tom Lantos and Barbara Lee, both of California, worked out the compromise over the past week after Democrats argued far more funding was needed to make a dent in the spreading pandemic, Reuters news agency reported.
The Bush administration had pledged $200 million in new funds for a global AIDS fund endorsed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and on Monday Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told diplomats from 180 nations that Washington would increase that contribution.
The U.N. Special Session on AIDS, which concludes today marks the first time the U.N. General Assembly has convened to discuss a health-related issue.
In the 20 years since the diagnosis of AIDS, an estimated 22 million people have died of the disease. Another 36 million are thought to be infected.
A dozen governments, plus private foundations and companies, have pledged about $700 million to the fund, which will underwrite prevention and treatment efforts in developing countries.
Mr. Annan, quoting U.N. statistics, said it will take $7 billion to $9 billion a year to fight the HIV virus and care for its victims.
A half-dozen European and African nations yesterday made donations to the fund, which will subsidize care, prevention and treatment of those with HIV and AIDS in the world's poorest nations.
Britain yesterday doubled its previous pledge of $100 million to the global fund, while Sweden promised $60 million.
African nations have been digging into their treasuries to stem the scourge, which has infected 55 million people on the continent and continues to spread.
Nigeria yesterday pledged $10 million to the fund, Zimbabwe $1 million and Kenya $7,000. On Monday, Uganda announced a $2 million commitment to the global fund.
Mr. Annan proposed the fund in April to ease the pressure on the poorest countries where HIV/AIDS has had the most devastating effect.
The fund will address a range of infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, but HIV and AIDS are by far the more pressing concerns, officials say.
"We hope this seed money will help generate billions more from donors all over the world," Mr. Powell said in an address on Monday to the U.N. Special Session on AIDS.
"Beyond the global fund, I am proud to say that my government has been, and will continue to be, the largest bilateral donor in the fight against AIDS, providing 50 percent of all international funding."
Mr. Powell noted that Washington already spends $1.6 billion to combat AIDS in the developing world.
He said that he and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson would co-chair a new task force on AIDS established by President Bush.
Advocacy groups to fight AIDS and some governments have criticized the United States in the past month for failing to be more generous.

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