Clinton to activists: Get more votes in Congress for AIDS funding

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Former US President Bill Clinton speaks to the International AIDS Conference

Filed by Meredith Mazzotta from Vienna

“This is only the end of the beginning,” former President Bill Clinton said at the Monday morning plenary session of the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. “We have to transition now from what has essentially been a ‘make-it-up-as-you-go’ initial response to a calculated, long-term response.“

Part of that response, he said, is recruiting more well-trained health care workers. “Specifically, we need people who can do good work at a lower cost over a wider geographic range than doctors can do alone in poor countries, or that doctors and nurses can do alone.” Clinton also spoke about fighting the idea that there is a dichotomy between investing in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and investing in health care systems. Part of that involves showing that we are spending the money we do have effectively and wisely.

A few other recommendations he mentioned: challenging African nations to spend more on health, educating as well as advocating on the economic benefits of HIV treatment and prevention, cutting the cost of service delivery, and spending a higher percentage of donor aid on in-country services managed by local government or nongovernmental organizations.

At the Sunday evening opening ceremony, protesters marched into the session room and onto the stage with posters, flags and horns, chanting about keeping promises for AIDS funding. This was in response to recent budget proposals for FY2011 that indicate a retreat from the Obama administration’s promise to fund global AIDS at $50 billion over the next five years.

In response to the protesters, Clinton offered this advice, “You have two options here. You can demonstrate and call the president names, or we can go get some more votes in Congress to get some more money. My experience is that the second choice is the far better one and more likely to pay off,” Clinton said, adding, “There is no way the White House will veto an increase in spending for AIDS.”

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