Candidates For President Need Plan To Defeat HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria

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HIV/AIDS is an important concern of US voters, and some candidates have raised the issue in debates and on the campaign trail.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis has also alarmed the public. However, so far, none of the candidates have said in detail what they would do about these related health threats if elected.

Today, the Global AIDS Alliance added its name to a growing list of groups that are backing a 10 point plan that lays out urgent changes needed in the US approach to global health. The plan, called the 2008 Plan to Stop HIV/AIDS, calls for $50 billion in US spending 2009-2013. This figure is based on conservative estimates of resource needs and is broadly in line with this week's proposal from the One Campaign.

To stop drug-resistant TB, the plan calls for a major increase in US support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Fund finances TB control programs in many countries visited by Americans and which send increasing numbers of visitors to the US, including countries in Asia. However, the Congress is on course to provide only two thirds of what the Fund has asked from the US for 2008.

The International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+) endorsed the Plan while meeting this week at their 2007 Annual General Meeting in Nairobi. The Rev. JP Heath, General Secretary of the Network, said: "We note with concern that President Bush's proposed $30 billion over the next 5 years will not bring the Millennium Development Goals for HIV and AIDS within reach. We therefore urge the US Government to greatly increase its crucial support in line with the 2008 Stop AIDS Plan."

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Several prominent experts have also signed the appeal, including Anglican priest Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha of Uganda; Rev. Mpho Tutu, Chair of the Board of the Global AIDS Alliance; His Eminence Seraphim Kykkotis, Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Johannesburg and Pretoria; Allan Rosenfield, MD, Dean, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; and Fitzhugh Mullan, MD, Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, George Washington University.

"We all agree that these issues require another big leap in funding by the United States," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "Candidates right now are figuring how to redefine America's place in the world, and this Plan lays out what we think are some essential steps," said Dr. Zeitz.

"President Bush recently grabbed the headlines by appearing to double current spending, but a closer look shows it actually would keep spending about where it already is," he said. "If we simply accept his plan we will not be meeting the needs of orphaned children or addressing Africa's dire shortage of health care workers. So, we have no choice but to look to the next President to show the leadership that's needed."

A 2006 survey showed that 68% of Americans favor a foreign policy that puts greater emphasis on fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. The survey was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

So far, the Plan has been endorsed by over 50 organizations. US backers include Health GAP, American Jewish World Service, Union for Reform Judaism, South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS, Constituency for Africa, Partners in Health, RESULTS, Physicians for Human Rights, Student Global AIDS Campaign, American Medical Students Association, American Public Health Association (International Health Section), Jubilee USA Network, and the Presbyterian Church USA (Washington Office).

The One Campaign also called this week for a major leap in funding, calling on candidates to back $29 billion more in poverty-focused aid per year. On AIDS, TB and malaria, it called for $9.4 billion for 2008, nearly double what President Bush has requested. Held constant over five years, this would equal about $50 billion.

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