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Obama Could Inherit Weaker Global Health Fund

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the clock runs out on the Bush Administration, key US officials are working overtime to undermine a crucial international health program, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tb and Malaria.

US officials are attending a meeting of the Fund's Board in India, where they have joined forces with representatives of France's Nicolas Sarkozy and others to demand dramatic cut backs in grants for health programs around the world.

The lead US negotiator is Bill Steiger, a political appointee who is the Director of the Office of Global Health Affairs (OGHA) at the Department of Health and Human Services and who has a seat on the Board of the Fund. In 2004, Science Magazine called Steiger a "hard-nosed enforcer" of the Bush administration's approach to global health.

"If the Bush team succeeds they will make it much harder for the incoming Obama Administration to achieve its goals in global health security, including on the urgent issue of drug-resistant tuberculosis," said Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance.

"They will also frustrate the intent of Congress, which authorized full backing for the Fund when it passed the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008." said Zeitz.

The US is a major contributor to the Global Fund, and each US dollar given to the Fund has leveraged two additional dollars from other donors. But, each year since the Fund's creation the Bush Administration has proposed a massive cut in the US contribution, preferring instead to finance its own bilateral programs.

Countries have vastly improved the quality of their applications to the Fund, assuming the resources would be there, but now the Fund's Board is designing a program of rationing.

"This is the ultimate 'bait and switch,' and the Global Fund model is now in grave jeopardy," said Zeitz. "Rationing cannot be justified by the economic downturn, since the resources needed for these life saving programs are a tiny fraction of the G7 countries' budgets," said Zeitz. "In fact, global health programs address the enormous economic cost of disease, and it is in everyone's interest, no matter where they live, that the Fund succeed."

President-elect Obama signed a pledge to provide a fair share US contribution to the Global Fund, but he will not take office until January 20, 2009.

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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