The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, today welcomed the announcement by United States President George W. Bush of a total of $15 billion in funding to help in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
Referring to Mr. Bush's pledge, made last night in his State of the Union address, the Secretary-General congratulated the US President on his promise to provide stronger US leadership in combating the devastating impact of the global AIDS epidemic.
"An additional $10 billion - making a total of $15 billion over the next five years, with a new emphasis on access to life-saving treatment and care for millions of people - will make a vital impact, not only in saving lives but also in staving off the very real threat to stability that AIDS represents in the worst affected regions," the Secretary-General said in a statement released in New York.
Mr. Annan also expressed appreciation that $1 billion will initially to go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which he described as a "key instrument for the international community in giving strategic direction to the global struggle against HIV/AIDS."
The Secretary-General stressed that while experiences on every continent have shown it possible to prevent infection and treat and care for those infected, too often the lack of resources has prevented projects from growing into the full-scale national strategies required for success.
"President Bush has confirmed his belief that AIDS can be defeated," Mr. Annan said. "I hope the US Congress will accept the President's challenge and ensure that the needed funding is made available as quickly as possible, in keeping with the urgency of this crisis. And I hope that this example will encourage other governments to follow suit."
Echoing that theme was Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, who said that Mr. Bush's announcement challenges every other member of the Group of Seven most industrialized nations - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada - to follow suit before its next summit in June in France.
"Between now and then, every single member must announce its contribution to the struggle against AIDS overall, and to the Global Fund in particular," he said. "The summit itself should initiate the most far-reaching, imaginative plan of action to confront this communicable scourge that the world has ever seen."
Mr. Lewis also warned that imminent war in Iraq could overshadow any efforts to fight the scourge. "And with the best will in the world, wars have a way of distorting, however unintentionally, every intended human priority," he said. "Wars have their own dynamic, in the wake of which hopes can be strangled and dreams can be suffocated.
"We cannot allow HIV/AIDS to become collateral damage."