US to spend $2bn on Aids in Africa this year

A US House committee decided on Wednesday that spending on a global HIV-Aids prevention and treatment measure should be held to $2-billion for its first year, despite Democratic efforts to add $1-billion.

The House Appropriations Committee voted down an amendment by Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, that would have added $1-billion in emergency spending for Aids programmes to the foreign operations spending bill on a 33-28 vote.

Instead, the bill has $1,43-billion to fight Aids and other infectious diseases for the 2004 budget year starting on October 1. Another House spending bill would add $644-million, bringing the total to just over $2-billion, up about $500-million from this year.

The effort to boost Aids funds came as an amendment to a bill providing $17,1-billion for foreign aid next year.
The overall measure was approved by voice vote.

Bush, in a speech last week in Botswana, a country devastated by Aids, pledged that the United States would be a partner in the battle against a disease that has already killed more than 17-million in sub-Saharan Africa, and talked of his proposal to spend $15-billion over five years to help the hardest-hit African and Caribbean nations battle Aids.

Democrats say that means Congress should be spending $3-billion a year.

“I don’t want the rest of the world to think that we say one thing and we do less,” said Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, a Michigan Democrat.

Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona and other Republicans noted the Aids money was up considerably from this year and that they were confident that Congress would live up to its promise to spend $15-billion.

Kolbe said it would be a mistake to overspend in the first year when a new global Aids coordinator just nominated by Bush is not yet in place and procedures for programmes are still being drawn up.

“I expect we will do even more next year,” Kolbe said.

Some Aids advocacy groups say Congress should do more now.

“Today’s failure to provide full funding is a setback, but it will not weaken the resolve of those fighting to ensure we make good on our promises and get about the business of saving lives,” said Mark Isaac, Vice President, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.

The underlying foreign aid bill is $1,8-billion below Bush’s request, and $6,6-billion below last year’s level—which included $7,5-billion Congress provided this spring as part of a bill for US war efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The bill includes $2,7-billion in economic and military aid for Israel, the largest recipient of US aid, and $1,9-billion for Egypt. It provides the $576-million Bush requested to help the former Soviet states, and modest increases over this year for the Peace Corps and for international anti-drug efforts. - Sapa-AP

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