Originally created 08/19/00

Bill to create African AIDS fund



WASHINGTON (AP) - A week before he makes what will likely be his last presidential trip to Africa, President Clinton plans to sign a bill establishing a trust fund to care for African AIDS victims, Clinton administration officials said Friday.

Clinton will use his weekly radio address Saturday to announce the signing, said an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. The signing will likely take place in Lake Placid, N.Y., in the Adirondack Mountains, where Clinton and his family were planning a quiet weekend.

In his speech, Clinton will also direct Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to begin negotiations with the World Bank to set up the trust fund.

The fund will gather public and private funding to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa which has 10 percent of the world's population but 70 percent of the world's AIDS cases.

Clinton will travel to Nigeria, in western Africa, and Tanzania, in southeastern Africa, next week.

The bill, passed by Congress last month, authorizes U.S. contributions of $150 million a year for two years. The money is intended as a springboard to bring in up to $1 billion a year from international donors. The House had pushed for a $500 million U.S. contribution over five years, but the Senate scaled it back.

A portion of the money has been earmarked for orphans in Africa while other resources will go toward preventing mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus and improving education and prevention programs.

The trust fund "represents an extraordinary effort to move with urgency to address the horrific AIDS epidemic," said Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa., sponsor of the bill. "It is our hope and expectation that the annual contribution from the U.S. will leverage enough contributions from other donors to increase several fold the size of the trust fund."

AIDS kills 6,000 people a day in Africa and has orphaned some 15 percent of children in the worst-affected cities. The United Nations has predicted the disease will wipe out half the teen-age population in some poor countries in Africa.

By some estimates, the disease will lower life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa from 59 in the early 1990s to 45 by 2015.

The U.S. representative to the World Bank board of trustees would administer the trust fund.

American attention to the AIDS crisis has taken on a new dimension in recent months since the administration declared it a national security threat that could destabilize fragile democracies and crush economic progress for whole continents.

Five major pharmaceutical companies, responding to complaints that new effective AIDS treatments are beyond the reach of millions of Africans with the disease because of high costs, have agreed to make substantial cuts in the price of AIDS drugs for Africa and other developing countries.

In his budget request to Congress, Clinton asked for $244 million next year for combatting and treating AIDS in poor countries.

Clinton and his family were spending the weekend in upstate New York, at a friend's Adirondack "camp," actually a luxurious summer home. Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were speaking Friday night at a local Democratic Party picnic in nearby Saranac Lake.

Clinton plans to celebrate his 54th birthday quietly on Saturday.

On the Net:

The AIDS bill, H.R. 3519, can be found at http:thomas.loc.gov