Congressman Leach (R-IA) Proposes World Bank AIDS Trust Fund

To Fund Crucial Infrastructure-Building Efforts in Education, Prevention and Treatment

January 24, 2000 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

In a move to address the greatest medical challenge of the time, Rep. James A. Leach (R-IA), Chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee, today introduced legislation to create a special Trust Fund at the World Bank to pay for AIDS education, prevention, treatment and vaccine development efforts in the world's poorest countries, including hard-hit Sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank AIDS Prevention Trust Fund Act authorizes establishment of a billion-dollar fund in which the United States would contribute 10 percent. Uniquely, the fund could solicit support from worldwide charitable groups and private sector businesses, as well as from governments of other countries.

"This legislation does not envision a narrowly-focused containment policy, but rather a broader vision of eradication of AIDS within a generation," Leach said. "If the people and the government of the United States can set as a goal the landing of a mission on Mars, we certainly should, in a century which is likely to be hallmarked by genetic breakthroughs, also plan to conquer AIDS, as well as cancer.

"The purposes of this Act are to prevent human suffering and to ensure the viability of economic development and stability in Africa, the Caribbean and Asian nations with a high incidence of AIDS. The Fund will support improved AIDS education; initiatives to prevent the spread of AIDS; development of national HIV/AIDS strategies; and support for the millions of children afflicted with and orphaned by AIDS, Leach said.

"For all the discussion of AIDS over the past decades, the big picture has yet to be defined and the real challenge addressed. The big picture is that worldwide over 16 million people have died and tens of millions more are dying of a disease for which there is no cure. The big picture also is that the disease has ravished much of a continent – Africa – in a manner analogous to the European plagues of the Middle Ages," he said.

"Staggering numbers of women, as well as men, are infected in Sub-Saharan Africa and the disease has leaped quantitatively beyond the population base considered in American most at risk. For humanitarian reasons, it is imperative that the developed world provide assistance to the people of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia where AIDS has rampaged. But, it must be understood that efforts to combat AIDS in other regions and continents have huge health implications for our own country as well. It is simply a fact of life that disease knows no borders," Leach concluded.

The Leach bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to enter into negotiations with other World Bank member countries to create the AIDS Prevention Trust Fund, which would provide financial support for programs in the world's poorest nations with a significant AIDS problem. The Treasury Secretary would be required to report to Congress on the effectiveness of projects receiving Fund support, such as progress toward vaccine development.

"Envisioned in this legislative approach," Leach said, "is the opportunity for the private sector, such as pharmaceutical firms, to contribute their products and expertise to parts of the world without the capacity to afford treatment options. Indeed, for the first time in the context of an international institution initiative, an integral part would be played by the private sector."

A copy of the bill is available on the Banking Committee Homepage.