- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 30, 2005

UNAIDS chief kept

Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS since its creation in 1995, was given another four-year term — one of the few senior-level appointments to be renewed during the remaining term of Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

As executive director of the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS, the Geneva-based Dr. Piot, a Belgian doctor who also has a doctoral degree in microbiology, oversees the work of nearly a dozen far-flung U.N. agencies fighting the virus.

“This is a crucial time in our fight against the epidemic and in our work to mobilize the world against this unique threat to human development and security,” Mr. Annan said.

“In 2005, we need to raise $2.3 billion and $3.4 billion in 2006,” said Dr. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “We are working closely with governments to make sure that these funds do arrive. I’m optimistic because there is this momentum gathering strength to put adequate financing against HIV/AIDS.

“We can’t be putting hundreds of thousands or millions on anti-retroviral drugs [without] reliable, sustainable guaranteed financing,” Dr. Feachem said.

Meanwhile, a Bush administration initiative to spend $15 billion on AIDS over five years is well ahead of target, said Randall Tobias, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator.

The first infusion of money was appropriated by Congress in 2004, and 155,000 people out of a first-year goal of 200,000 are in the program.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will focus efforts on 15 developing nations that account for about half of HIV infections.

The cost of treating people has dropped as new drugs become available and generics are improved.

Last week, a cocktail of drugs from South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare received approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which could accelerate the savings. Medicine for HIV/AIDS costs about $300 per person per year, but U.N. officials said costs could soon slide to $50.

Donations peak

The U.N. Population Fund, which has few friends in official Washington these days, said last week that it has secured record contributions from 166 countries.

The organization, which provides reproductive health services and education around the world, received pledges of $326 million for 2004, easily surpassing the 1996 high-water mark of $300 million.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the fund, said the contributions reflect governments’ “commitment to reproductive health and rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality,” as affirmed at the Cairo conference in 1994.

Those goals do not include an explicit renunciation of abortion, which has drawn ire from the pro-life Bush administration.

Although Congress continues to appropriate about $34 million annually to the U.N. Population Fund, the White House has refused to disburse the money since 2002.

The top six donors to the fund last year were Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

A number of European diplomats have remarked that their hearty support of the New York-based fund is, in part, a response to the shortfall caused by Washington’s nonpayment.

“All family planning is not abortion,” said one Western European diplomat last week.

On other fronts

The Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on international operations will not go to Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman, according to congressional staff, who say John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican, likely will keep it when assignments are announced tomorrow.

Meanwhile, anticipation is running high for the report on the Iraq oil-for-food program by the panel led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Sources say it will be delayed for a week, until Feb. 7 and 8.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at BPisik@washingtontimes.com

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