U.S. Anti-HIV/AIDS Effort Could Become Largest in History

Washington - The president’s budget request for fighting global HIV/AIDS, if approved by Congress, will make that international health initiative the largest in history dedicated to a single disease, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator says.

Ambassador Mark Dybul told reporters at a February 9 press conference in Geneva that the current U.S. spending proposal on global AIDS programs of $5.4 billion would bring the United States’ total AIDS funding to $17.7 billion for five years.  That represents a more than sixfold increase in funding since 2001.

"I think when the history of global health is written, this commitment will be viewed as one of the most important actions in global health," Dybul said.

Nor is this achievement a matter of funding only, he said.  Although the money is important, it must be used to achieve results.

"For too long in development we talked about our success based on dollars, not what the dollars went for," Dybul said.  "In this instance the president insisted that the money achieve results."

In order for its contributions to be as effective as possible as quickly as possible, Dybul said, the U.S. approach is to support programs currently operating in other countries, allowing those programs to enlarge and speed up delivery of medicines and services to afflicted populations.  U.S. funding thus goes to a variety of governments, nongovernmental organizations, and faith- and community-based organizations.

"These aren’t American programs.  These are African programs and Asian programs, Caribbean and Latin American programs that we’re supporting.  President Bush has been very clear on this.  We provide resources and support, but it’s the leadership and activity in country: That’s why they’ve succeeded," Dybul said.

The ambassador was asked by a journalist about the use of generic drugs and religious-related restrictions on the distribution of condoms as an AIDS preventative. Dybul noted that there are in fact 35 generic drug products, many produced in India using materials imported from China. As for condom distribution, he said, in the first three years of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the American people have supplied 1.3 billion condoms.

U.S. actions are based on sound epidemiology and science. Dybul explained that in a generalized epidemic as exists in sub-Saharan Africa, three components for the prevention of sexual transmission are needed:  abstinence or delay of sexual debut; one or few partners; and correct and consistent condom use.

And as with other matters, these programs are developed by the countries themselves, not by the United States, he said. 

A transcript of Ambassador Dybul's press conference is available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission in Geneva.

For further information about U.S. programs combating HIV/AIDS, see HIV/AIDS.