Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Mike Corder
Associated Press, with a report from Reuters

U.S. promises $1.3-billion for AIDS as UN develops long-term strategy

UNITED NATIONS — United States congressional leaders agreed to add more than $1.3-billion (U.S.) to a global campaign against AIDS yesterday, as other countries pitched in with contributions to the fund and diplomats hammered out a tentative agreement on a document that will map the way the world deals with the epidemic for years to come.

The commitment, approved by leaders of the House international relations committee, was the first indication of the size of the U.S. financial commitment toward the international effort, which is the focus of this week's United Nations special assembly session.

A committee statement said the funds will come on top of $200-million already pledged by U.S. President George W. Bush to the fund organized by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who says $7-billion to $10-billion is needed annually to halt AIDS and reverse the effects of a disease that has killed 22 million people and afflicts over 36 million more.

Washington's pledge earmarks $750-million for the global fund, $560-million in assistance to individual countries and $50-million for a pilot drug treatment program.

The committee is expected to approve the plan today. Both houses of Congress must approve it before it is enacted by Mr. Bush.

Mr. Annan's fund received additional pledges yesterday from Britain (which doubled its contribution to $200-million), Sweden ($60-million), Nigeria ($10-million), Zimbabwe ($1-million) and Kenya ($7,000).

Other countries, including Canada, have withheld specific donations to the fund until they know how it will be managed.

Meanwhile, UN General Assembly president Harri Holkeri announced that an agreement had been reached on the text of the conference's closing statement, after weeks of haggling by member nations. Negotiators compromised over language that specifically named vulnerable groups — "men who have sex with men" and "prostitutes." Canada, the United States and other Western nations agreed to strike that wording, which some Muslim nations found offensive.

Western countries also agreed to drop a reference in the document to guidelines drawn up by the UN AIDS agency that encourage nations to support same-sex marriage and decriminalize prostitution.

The draft was formally submitted to the assembly for adoption today, the gathering's final day.

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Created: June 27, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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