WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is adding Vietnam to the list of countries eligible for U.S. funds to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
President Bush plans to announce the decision, as well as the pending release of an additional $500 million in funding for AIDS prevention, care and treatment, at an African American church in Philadelphia today. Bush also is expected to call for reauthorization of the federal law that funds many HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in the United States.
The president has often invoked the funding of AIDS prevention and treatment programs in Africa as a key element of his "compassionate conservatism," and the speech is likely to refocus attention on those efforts at a time when he is seeking to revive that agenda as a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.
But Bush is likely to be met outside the church by AIDS activists and others who say the administration has proposed cutting the U.S. contribution to a global anti-AIDS fund by more than 60%.
Dr. Paul Zeitz, director of the Washington-based Global AIDS Alliance, said the allocation of funds to U.S.-approved organizations in Vietnam and 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean was coming at the expense of multinational efforts.
In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush announced a five-year, $15-billion commitment to fight the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, and to treat people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Worldwide, HIV has inflected more than 45 million people, and AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa.
Administration officials, who spoke to reporters in a conference call on condition of anonymity, said Bush sought $2.4 billion in this year's budget for global AIDS prevention and treatment efforts.
Congress is reviewing the administration's plan for $500 million in emergency funds for the targeted countries, officials said. This year, the administration released $350 million for new and existing programs in those nations. The remainder of the $2.4 billion is directed toward research efforts; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and other efforts, officials said.
A senior official said the administration chose to focus new efforts on Vietnam -- rather than on countries such as India and Russia, where the number of people with HIV is larger -- because "Vietnam is the place where we believe ... we can make the greatest impact."
An estimated 130,000 Vietnamese are living with AIDS, and that number is expected to grow eightfold, to more than 1 million, by 2010, the official said.