- October 2 -
White House pick for global AIDS czar endorses disinformation
campaign on global AIDS funding, abstinence policies.
During Senate confirmation hearings yesterday, Randall Tobias, ex-Eli
Lilly CEO and Pres. Bush's appointee for head of the U.S. Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief, included in his testimony incorrect and
misleading statements about the capacity of poor countries to absorb
U.S. funding for AIDS treatment and prevention, according to AIDS
activists. His confirmation is expected in the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee today.
"Tobias told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that according to
his experts, money is 'not the problem' in confronting the AIDS
crisis," said Asia Russell of Health GAP. "This is patently untrue.
Annual spending on AIDS in poor countries needs to reach $10.5
billion by 2005 just to utilize poor countries' existing
infrastructure alone. U.S. underfunding of the fight against AIDS is a major problem."
Today, total global spending on AIDS is only $4.7 billion. "While the
Administration continues to hide behind the excuse of inadequate
infrastructure," asserts Rusell, "it is undermining the Global Fund,
the multilateral program with the capacity and legitimacy in place to
save lives now."
The Global Fund needs $3 billion in 2004 to fund qualified proposals.
Pres. Bush plans to give only 6.6% of the total to the Global Fund
in 2004, or $200 million, although the U.S. comprises 33% of the
world economy. Bush promised $1 billion for the Global Fund, as part
of his $3 billion Global AIDS Act, signed into law in May. Bush has
broken that promise, according to advocates. "The Administration
plans to isolate and underfund multilateral efforts to combat the
pandemic, even if they have to mislead the public in order to do it,"
said Salih Booker, Director, Africa Action.
Before his confirmation hearing, Tobias drew criticism because of his
lack of experience in public health and because of potential conflict
of interest as a corporate Pharma CEO. Eli Lilly is a member of the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, a group
lobbying the U.S. Government to seek greater intellectual property
rights to protect monopolies on expensive medicines in the developing
world and whose members are major Republican campaign donors.
"Trusting this position--with so many lives at stake--to someone with
no public health experience is astonishing," said Dr. Paul Zeitz,
Director, Global AIDS Alliance. "Tobias told the Committee he hoped
to use his pharma background to 'get a better deal' on drug prices.
Negotiations with brand-name companies have never been as effective
as generic competition in reducing the prices of AIDS drugs. Will
this be an initiative that favors corporate cronyism over best
Tobias also claimed, erroneously, that declines in the rate of HIV
infections in Uganda are the result of campaigns focused primarily on
abstinence. "Promotion of abstinence has been, at best, only one
aspect of a much broader campaign to reduce HIV in Uganda," notes
Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Health and Gender
Equity, "One that has included frank talk about sex at all levels of
public discourse and widespread promotion of effective condom use,
among other strategies."
The Administration efforts, says Jacobson, "to portray Uganda's
approach as a one-dimensional strategy serves a narrow ideological
agenda, in which public health and scientific evidence are virtually
irrelevant." The Bush Administration's plan to make abstinence-only
strategies the core of its global prevention agenda "will
unquestionably lead to a more illness and death," said Jacobson.
Amendments are expected to the White House Emergency Supplemental
spending bill next week that would restore global AIDS funding to the
original level promised by the President. Similar amendments have
already been aggressively opposed by the White House, through Senate
proxies including Bill Frist (R-TN).
October 2, 2003
The AIDS emergency is fast becoming the worst health catastrophe in
human history. Already, twenty five million people have died from
AIDS. Around the world, more than 42 million people are now infected
with the virus that causes AIDS. Without the hope of treatment, they
too will die. In the State of the Union message, President Bush
boldly proclaimed that: "This nation can lead the world in sparing
innocent people from a plague of nature."
The leadership of the President's AIDS initiative is critical to the
success of the overall effort to reverse the AIDS pandemic. We
believe that the President's nominee, Randall Tobias, is not the
appropriate person to serve as the coordinator of the President's
Global AIDS Initiative. Therefore, we urge you to oppose his
Mr. Tobias has virtually no significant experience working in the
field of public health or in the effort to combat AIDS. Mr. Tobias
was unable in his confirmation hearing to cite any direct experience
working on the issue of AIDS. The President's Global AIDS initiative
deserves to be led by a qualified individual with extensive public
Mr. Tobias' experience as a pharmaceutical executive raises serious
questions of conflict of interest in the procurement of the
lowest-cost medicine. Mr. Tobias is not divesting from his holdings
in Eli Lilly, one of the leading members of the pharmaceutical trade
association (PHRMA). PHRMA has worked tirelessly to block AIDS
sufferers around the world from having access to the lowest
cost-generic medicine. In his testimony, Mr. Tobias misleadingly
suggested that no further obstacles remained to providing access to
the lowest-cost generic medicine in the developing world.
Mr. Tobias' testimony raises serious questions about his fitness to
serve as the AIDS coordinator. During his confirmation hearing, he
misleadingly stated that the Global Fund could not effectively
utilize additional funds. In fact, as he ought to know, the Global
Fund requires billions more for its upcoming rounds of grants.
Mr. Tobias testimony also revealed a rejection of comprehensive
prevention strategies in favor of a policy giving priority to
abstinence-only prevention. Responding to a question about the
success of Uganda's balanced ABC approach to HIV prevention, Mr.
Tobias clearly indicated that he would privilege abstinence and
faithfulness over condoms as a means to prevent the spread of HIV
despite overwhelming evidenced that a balanced approach to prevention
is the most effective and best meets the needs of women and
A well-balanced and fully funded US response to the HIV/AIDS
emergency is needed now more than ever. For this reason, we
respectfully urge your opposition to the nomination of Mr. Tobias.
Advocates for Youth
AIDS Policy Project
Artists Against AIDS Worldwide
Center for Health and Gender Equity
Global AIDS Alliance
Keep a Child Alive
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Student Global AIDS Campaign
Washington Office on Africa