President Bush to Request $3.2 Billion for AIDS Plan

President Bush’s new budget will ask Congress to provide $3.2 billion to combat AIDS in Africa and other poor regions, senior administration officials said Thursday.

This request will come to Congress as record deficits continue to greatly stress federal spending. Next month, when Bush sends the 2006 budget to Congress, several foreign aid legislation programs will be forced to compete with each other for funding.

During his State of the Union Address in January of 2003, the president unveiled an Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, promising $15 billion to combat the global AIDS epidemic. The program spending is directed at 15 poor countries–12 African nations, Haiti, Guyana and Vietnam.

Since then the AIDS program has grown gradually from $1.6 billion in 2003 to $2.8 billion for this year. Bush’s administration says that a gradual increase in funding is a smart way to strengthen and build up the program. But critics say that funds are still too small and need to be increased to become more effective.

Tom Hart, top lobbyist for Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa, a group that pushes for more aid for the continent, said the $3.2 billion was in line with the president’s plan. But he said he was concerned there would not be enough money for the global fund, which distributes the funds broadly,” as reported by the Associated Press.

On the Whitehouse government Web site, the president’s plan specifies the intent of the program which is to:

Prevent 7 million new infections (60 percent of the projected new infections in the target countries)

Treat 2 million HIV-infected people

Care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans

The World Health Organization reported that the number of AIDS patients receiving life-saving drug treatment in poor or middle-income countries rose a huge 60 percent in only the last six months thanks mostly to the determination of governments to confront and solve this problem and to the enormous influx in international funds.

The combined efforts of various governments to reduce HIV/AIDS cases and rehabilitate victims around the world are being felt– “This is not a report to celebrate. But the last six months have shown that even some of the world’s poorest nations can save significant numbers of people even where there are few health care workers and weak health infrastructure,” said Jim Yong Kim, who heads the HIV-AIDS division of the World Health Organization, in an interview with the New York Times.