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Promised funding for AIDS vanishes

By Elizabeth Terzakis | July 11, 2003 | Page 2

WHAT HAPPENED to the $15 billion that George W. Bush promised earlier this year to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean? The proposal, made in Bush's State of the Union address, won the president praise from organizations that previously had nothing but criticism for his obvious indifference to a disease that has caused more than 20 million deaths.

Turns out the belief that Bush had turned over a new leaf was premature. According to press reports, Congress may approve hundreds of millions of dollars less than Bush requested for foreign aid in general for the next fiscal year--including the promised AIDS funding.

This means that neither the AIDS initiative nor the so-called "Millennium Challenge Account"--a program that would increase aid to developing countries in exchange for a range of pro-free market economic reforms--will receive the funding requested for 2004. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chair of the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign relations, said the shortfall was because the programs are "not ready to spend those amounts."

But that's just an excuse, says Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, an aid organization founded by U2 singer Bono. "If [the funds] don't get delivered in their first year," Drummond said, "the president's promises need to be looked at."

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