Clinton Trip to Africa An Opportunity to Focus on Global AIDS

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As Hillary Clinton sets out on her first trip to Africa as Secretary of State this week, how far up (or down) will global health issues—and HIV/AIDS in particular–be on her agenda? With stops planned for Angola, South Africa, Liberia and elsewhere, Clinton’s policy plate is reportedly already loaded up with difficult issues, from political instability to global hunger to gender-based violence.

But global health advocates—in the US and in Africa—are also working to direct her attention to the unfolding crisis in funding for global AIDS programs. With developing world cutbacks to HIV/AIDS budgets and uncertainly about the level of commitment from the developed world, many fear a significant setback in the battle against global AIDS.

A letter is now circulating among some HIV/AIDS advocates that details the current crisis and calls for a more robust response from the US.

Expressing concern about the Obama Administration’s comment to PEPFAR, the letter says in part, “It is worrying that there has been very little increased funding for PEPFAR in spite of promises to the contrary by the new administration. We are further concerned by reports of organizations using the Project’s funds in Uganda having been forced to turn back new patients, while in Tanzania, the treatment budget has been cut back by 25 per cent with adverse impact on Malaria, TB and HIV and AIDS.”

The letter also asks Clinton to raise the issue, in her meetings with top government officials, of the commitment among Africa nations to their own health programs. “We urge you to raise this issue in public and in private with national Governments, and call on them to increase health spending, and to attain at least the 15 per cent threshold,” as they have promised, the letter reads. It’s been signed, so far, by about a half-dozen groups, including Oxfam, the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, and the Africa Civil Society Coalition on HIV/AIDS.

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