FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ann-Louise Colgan 202/546 7961

Africa Action Demands Dollars to Match Announcement on AIDS in Africa.

Urges Immediate Increase in Funding to Save Lives This Year; Calls for U.S. action on patents and debt cancellation to support access to anti-AIDS drugs for Africans

Wednesday, January 29, 2003 (Washington, DC) At a press conference this morning with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Africa Action Executive Director Salih Booker said, "The U.S. President's new Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief comes in response to rising pressure from AIDS activists and the Congressional Black Caucus, who have fought for a greater U.S. response to this most deadly global threat."

While Africa Action welcomes the announcement of new money to fight HIV/AIDS, Salih Booker noted this morning that this money must be made available immediately if it is to save lives and have a real impact on the course of the pandemic in Africa and globally. Booker emphasized: " Last night's announcement would be the height of cynicism if the President does not now request at least $3.5 billion of his new total for funding this year. This is the U.S. share of what is urgently needed to fight HIV/AIDS now!"

According to the White House, the President's request for
additional funds to fight HIV/AIDS will not affect the 2003 budget, and will only begin in 2004, with an increase of just $700 million. Booker noted, "The real measure of the President's sincerity will be in the budget numbers for 2003 and 2004. Large numbers for 2007 are meaningless to people who will die this year without access to essential medicines."

Africa Action criticized the White House failure to increase funding for the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS. Booker noted, "The Global Fund is the most important vehicle in the effort to fight the pandemic and the U.S. should contribute a far greater share. The new commitment of only $1 billion to the Fund, over a period of 5 years, would actually undermine Africa's greatest hope."

Africa Action welcomes the President's shift to emphasize the importance of anti-retroviral treatment in fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. However, Booker said, "U.S. support for treatment must be matched with a commitment to ensuring African governments have access to affordable medicines including generic drugs, compulsory licensing and parallel imports. Booker added, "these life-saving drugs will remain inaccessible to Africans who need them so long as the U.S. continues to push the interests of the pharmaceutical companies in international trade negotiations, as happened again recently in Geneva."

Booker concluded, "Africa's illegitimate external debts are draining $15 billion a year from the War on AIDS. The spirit and logic of the President's own initiative demand the immediate cancellation of these debts."

Africa is the epicenter of the global AIDS pandemic. Home to just over 10% of the global population, Africa has more than 75% of the world's HIV/AIDS cases. President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief offers an additional $10 billion over 5 years to support prevention and treatment efforts in the countries most heavily affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.