28 januar, 2007

Alt for at irritere Bush

DR har allerede fejret, at demokraterne har vundet flertallet i begge den amerikanske kongres´ kamre. Indtil videre har de også ladet os vide, at demokraterne prøver at forhindre at Bush kan sende 20.000 ekstra soldater til Irak, for eksempel ved at fastfryse det amerikanske budget på 2006-niveauet, så Bush ikke kan få godkendt financieringen af de ekstra tropper. Hvad vi indtil videre IKKE har fået at vide er, at demokraterne derved står til at dømme mellem 110.000 og 175.000 aids-syge til døden:

A stalemate in Congress over financing the federal government through the remainder of the year could shortly upend progress in bringing AIDS drugs to needy patients in poor countries hardest hit by the global scourge.

At stake is nearly $1 billion in new spending for various programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria abroad. The Bush administration had sought the money, and both houses in Congress were inclined to support the funding, but it could all disappear by the end of February without special consideration by lawmakers whose attention is now focused on Iraq. ..

Dr. Mark Dybul, director of PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, warned a Washington audience last week that unless Congress authorizes the additional money to continue expanding the program, new overseas enrollment in antiviral drug treatment -- at a rate of 50,000 new patients each month -- will have to stop by the end of February.

Because of an impasse over budget priorities that began during the waning days of the Republican-controlled Congress last fall, nearly all federal spending for this year has been frozen at 2006 levels. That creates special problems for programs, like PEPFAR, that were scheduled for big expansions in 2007.

Unless the new Democrat-controlled Congress makes an exception, PEPFAR will have to stay at last year's spending level through September -- leaving no money for new enrollment after February. As a result, 350,000 HIV-positive people slated to start AIDS drug treatment, most of them in Africa, won't get their medicine. Dybul estimated that 110,000 to 175,000 of them will die.

"That's what we are talking about. It's not just enrolling people on therapy,'' he said during a meeting of the Global Health Council. "It's people who will die -- they're gone.''

Dybul also estimated that without the additional money, 23,000 children will become infected at birth because services to prevent mother-to-fetus transmission of HIV "will pretty much have to halt.''

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