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Will Bush Deliver on African AIDS Funding Promise?

Aired July 10, 2003 - 19:17   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush's tour of Africa has centered on issues of defense and also stability. Today the president toured -- turned his attention to a far more deadly foe than violence and we are talking about AIDS.
Now, after promising $15 billion in assistance this year, the president reiterated his commitment to help Africa fight the epidemic.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are concerned about the plight and therefore we'll respond as generously as we can. That's really the story that I want the people of Africa to hear and I want the people of America to know that I'm willing to take that story to this continent and talk about the goodness of our country. And I believe we'll be successful when it's all said and done.


COOPER: The president was speaking right there in Botswana, which has the highest rate of AIDS in the world. Get this, more than 30 percent of adults in Botswana are HIV positive, in a continent that is home to almost 30 million people.

But even as the president spoke today members of Congress were less than united in giving him the money he wants.

CNN's Bob Franken is on the money trail.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): AIDS has ravaged Africa in ways that are almost incomprehensible in the rest of the world. Where leaders from across the political and social spectrum have been moved to action.

BUSH: The legislation I signed today launches an emergency effort that will provide $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS abroad.

FRANKEN: But President Bush and some House Republicans are now saying Congress should spend $2 billion in first year, not the full $3 billion the law allows. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The credibility gap between what the Republicans say, what the rhetoric is and what the resources are is growing bigger every day.

FRANKEN: Republicans counter they're committed to the president's $15 billion promise, but are wary of spending too much too soon on a program just getting organized.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I would, of course, refer to full funding of the president's request. We will make the best use of the money that Congress has provided to us.

FRANKEN: The president, meanwhile, was repeating a promise that the United States would continue to allow poorer countries to use much less expensive generic substitutes for anti-AIDS medicines in effect to ignore patents held by drug companies.

JEROME SMITH, SOUTH AFRICAN DRUG MANUFACTURER: Sitting in South Africa, knowing that we have a national disaster, it's frustrating, to say the least. We're caught between our belief that and our view that -- and the fact that we respect intellectual property rights.

FRANKEN (on camera): Drug manufacturers are among the administration's most significant campaign contributors and the administration has resisted efforts to weaken their international patents.

(voice-over) The president's critics will be sure to watch closely to see if political consideration weaken the administration's resolve.

Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, is the resolve weakening? Last year alone 45,000 people in North America became infected with HIV/AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa that number was 3.5 million.

Joining me now are Peter Zeitz, the executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance and Nile Gardiner, visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Gentlemen, appreciate both of you joining us.

Peter, let me start off with you.

President Bush has pledged $15 billion to help fight AIDS in Africa. Other presidents have talked a lot about AIDS in Africa and they haven't put up this kind of money. Why the complaints?

PETER ZEITZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GLOBAL AIDS ALLIANCE: Well, the measure of success is whether we're stopping the dying.

As you've said, millions of people have already died, 20 million in Africa alone, three million more will die this year. We're not comparing what President Bush is saying to what other people said. We're talking about whether he's committed to keeping the pledge that he made at the State of the Union.

And we're calling for the full funding of that bill. And he signed a bill on May 27 that said $3 billion this year. Anything less than that, we think, puts American credibility at stake.

COOPER: And you're saying that $3 billion has not been put forward thus far?

ZEITZ: No. You heard -- in your report you said that Congress approved $2 billion. Even that money is fuzzy math. That includes research money. It includes money for TB and malaria spending. Those are all important priorities, but President Bush promised $15 billion for AIDS alone. And so he only in the budget has...

COOPER: How much money do you think has really been put forward so far?

ZEITZ: $1.5 billion. So only half of what Congress approved.

COOPER: All right. Nile Gardiner, what about it? Only half of what Congress approved, does that sound right?

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, I think that President Bush has demonstrated tremendous vision on Africa. He has put forward a proposal which should save hundreds of thousands, if not even millions of lives.

And let's hope other international leaders will also commit substantial sums of money to...

COOPER: But Nile, let me just jump in, I guess what Peter is saying is, you know, vision is one thing, words are one thing, but money is another thing entirely. Is it $1.5 billion is not $3 billion, which is what Peter was saying the president promised.

GARDINER: Well, I think it's a good start. I think the figure is actually $2 billion so far and hopefully that will rise to $3 billion. But it's early days, and I do believe that there's growing support on Capitol Hill for this proposal.

COOPER: You think the money is going to come?

GARDINER: I think it will but it will take time.

COOPER: Peter, how concerned are you about administration or lack of administration support, trying to get some of these generic drugs in the hands of people who need it in countries in Africa?

ZEITZ: Well, just to clarify, I mean the president -- it's mind boggling to us that people are saying it's too soon to implement these programs. I mean, how many more millions of people have to die?

We have the global find to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, right up and ready to spend the money and deliver programs now. So I don't know what people are waiting for.

On your question about generics, I think that there remains a lot of questions. The president and his administration has been very fuzzy about what they're going to do. He just nominated a CEO of Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, former CEO, to head up this global AIDS program.

We're concerned that he will have the interests of the American pharmaceutical industry above the interest of the African people. And that industry has not stepped up to the plate yet. They are still obstructing progress. They are still obstructing access to these life saving drugs.

COOPER: Nile, let me get you in here.

Some pharmaceutical companies will say, "Look, you know, it costs a lot of money for us to develop these drugs. If we, you know, allow the rights to these things to just be dissipated, generic drugs made and distributed widely, we won't be getting the money. We won't be able to develop drugs in the future."

Do you support that argument?

GARDINER: Yes. I think that it's quite important to protect intellectual property rights. The president, of course, has to strike a balance between protecting those rights and providing affordable drugs to African countries who need them.

But I believe that he is striking the right balance at the moment. I don't think that pharmaceutical companies are trying to make billions of dollars out of the suffering of millions of people in Africa. I simply don't think that's the case at all.

COOPER: All right. We're going have to leave it there. Nile Gardiner and Peter Zeitz, appreciate you joining us. Appreciate it. Thank you.


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