Bush, Other G8 Leaders Poised to Break AIDS and Health Promises

Washington, DC (July 2, 2008) — One week before the start of the G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, a leaked copy of the latest version of the G8 communiqué contains no reference to the G8’s 2010 deadline for reaching universal access to AIDS treatment, prevention and care — a dramatic step backwards according to U.S. advocacy organizations.

At a White House press conference today, Mr. Bush spoke about the G8 commitments on health: “Last year, the G8 agreed to meet those [financial] commitments; they agreed to match. They also agreed to help us reduce malaria in affected countries by half. And I just – I hope that these countries understand the great promise and hope that comes when we help alleviate this suffering. And so one of my really important agenda items is . . . going to rally our partners to make commitments and meet commitments.”

Yet AIDS and health groups are alarmed by reports from those involved in negotiations and a story in the Financial Times on June 29, 2008, that suggested the deadline of 2010 would be eliminated and the existing G8 commitment to spend $60 billion fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and to strengthen health systems ‘over the coming years’ could be further weakened in this year’s communiqué.

Negotiators are debating the deadline for this $60 billion — with proposals ranging from 3 to 8 years. 2007 estimates of the global need to fund the fight against AIDS alone indicate that the G8 must provide $65 billion between 2008 and 2010 and nearly $10 billion to fight tuberculosis over that same period. According to advocacy organizations the $60 billion target is inadequate.

“We are alarmed that the wealthiest countries would turn an admittedly inadequate promise to fund the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria into a meaningless one,” said Joanne Carter, incoming executive director of RESULTS. “The G8 must ensure that its existing promise to invest $60 billion is kept by 2010, and supplemented by the additional resources needed.”

“This is not about language in a document, but about the promise of life-saving treatment, prevention, and care for millions of people,” said Pat Daoust, MSN, RN, Health Action AIDS Campaign director at Physicians for Human Rights. “The G8 leaders must not send the signal that their specific promise to keep people alive one year might be abandoned to vague language the next.”

A bill reauthorizing the PEPFAR bilateral global AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs at a level of $50 billion over five years is expected to be passed in Congress in the near future with broad bipartisan support. However, without concrete targets in the upcoming G8 communiqué, advocacy organizations are concerned that the Bush administration is missing an opportunity to challenge the other G8 countries to scale up their investments in AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The G8 leaders are continuing to debate references to other priorities in the communiqué, including increasing the number of trained and supported health workers in Africa. Conservative global estimates indicate that Africa alone needs to double its workforce by 1.5 million health workers in order to meet critical health targets. “Educating, hiring and retaining these health workers will take billions more, and the G8 is refusing to made those financial commitments which are urgently needed to save lives,” said Asia Russell, director of international policy for Health GAP.

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