HHS Secretary Announces Funding to Combat AIDS in Russia

By Roch Hammond | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, on a visit to Moscow this week, announced a $34-million grant to help treat and care for Russian people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

The grant money, from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will be dispersed over a five-year period. The Global Fund only finances programs when it is assured that its assistance does not replace or reduce other sources of funding, either those for the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria or those that support public health more broadly, its website states.

Official government estimates indicate that there are more than 274,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Russia, although many health experts believe the actual number is much higher - in the 1.5- to 2-million range.

According to HHS estimates, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. In Africa alone, 30 million people have been stricken with the deadly virus.

This week, the Global Fund Board voted to award $968 million to 50 nations. The Global Fund has committed more than $3 billion to 130 countries and three territories since its inception in 2002.

"The Global Fund is a major part of the United States' commitment to being the world leader in providing compassionate care for people living with AIDS," Thompson said. "As a nation, we are dedicating unprecedented resources, time and energy into research, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS."

Liberal groups, homosexual advocacy organizations, and others have disparaged the Bush administration's approach to fighting HIV/AIDS.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal group dedicated to finding "progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems," claims on its website that the Bush administration has a "go-it-alone" approach to fighting HIV/AIDS that has led it to neglect international efforts and seek inadequate solutions to the crisis, such as abstinence-only sex education.

The group also asserts that President Bush has underfunded his own initiative.

The Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as the nation's largest "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization," has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's HIV/AIDS initiative.

HRC's website argues that America's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic must be "comprehensive in nature -- including appropriate resources for prevention, research, housing and care and treatment."

HRC highlights domestic programs aimed to ease the suffering of those living with HIV/AIDS such as the Ryan White CARE Act passed in 1990, prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research at the National Institutes of Health and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HRC is also a member of the federal AIDS Partnership, which compiles a "comprehensive list of federal programs and identified needs."

Under President Bush, the United States is the largest donor to the Global Fund, pledging nearly $2 billion of the $5.4 billion pledged by all nations, corporations, individuals and charitable foundations to date.

The 2005 fiscal year budget of President Bush requests $2.7 billion for international AIDS programs, a 272 percent increase over the $725.6 million spent by the United States in fiscal year 2001.

The $2.7 billion is one facet of President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

The plan is a five-year, $15 billion initiative to combat the HIV/AIDS crisis throughout the world. Total federal spending on domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs has grown from $14.2 billion in fiscal year 2001 to a requested $19.8 billion in fiscal year 2005-a 40 percent increase under the Bush administration.

Calls to the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign and International AIDS Trust were not returned at press time.

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