Secretary-General Kofi Annan today hailed the announcement by United States President George Bush of a $200 million US contribution to a global fund proposed last month by Mr. Annan in an effort to mobilize global resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"I wish to thank you, President Bush, for committing yourself today to placing the United States at the forefront of the global fight against HIV/AIDS," Mr. Annan said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., following a meeting with the US leader and the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.
"It is a visionary decision that reflects your nation's natural leadership role in the United Nations, as well as your recognition of the threat posed by this global catastrophe," Mr. Annan added.
Reiterating his call to create an anti-AIDS "war chest," the Secretary-General said that he saw the Global AIDS and Health Fund he proposed in April at the African Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, as part of a total effort that would be "open to donations from governments, civil society, the private sector, foundations and individuals -- all hands on deck."
Mr. Annan underscored the significance of President Bush's pledge as a move that "will encourage and energize others to act." He expressed hope that when the General Assembly convenes its special session on AIDS this June "there will be strong support for the Global AIDS and Health Fund."
President Bush echoed this sentiment, saying, "This morning we have made a good beginning. I expect the upcoming UN special session, and this summer's G-8 summit in Italy, to turn these ideas into reality."
For his part, President Obasanjo also expressed appreciation for the US contribution. "I thank you on behalf of all AIDS sufferers in the world, and particularly on behalf of all AIDS sufferers in Africa, for launching the global fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic," he said.
President Bush's announcement was also welcomed by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which released a statement today lauding Washington's leadership on the matter. The statement also underscored the propitious timing of the announcement, coming as it did in advance of both the G-8 summit and the UN General Assembly special session. Twenty Heads of State or Government have already confirmed their participation in the Assembly session, a UN spokesperson said today.