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Al Gore Unveils Initiative to Combat Aids to UN

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release January 10, 2000

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE UNVEILS NEW $150 MILLION INITIATIVE TO COMBAT THE SPREAD OF AIDS AND CONTRIBUTE TO INTERNATIONAL INFECTIOUS DISEASE PREVENTION EFFORTS

New York, NY -- Today, in a speech before the United Nations, Vice President Al Gore will announce that the Administration's FY 2001 budget include a new $150 million investment to assist efforts to combat the international AIDS pandemic and contribute to international infectious disease prevention efforts. This new initiative provides $100 million for preventing and treating HIV and AIDS in Africa, Asia, and other regions of the world -- double last year's increase.

It also dedicates $50 million for purchasing vaccines against other diseases that ravage poor nations, including hepatitis B, certain forms of meningitis and yellow fever, helping to save millions of children. Purchasing existing vaccines is the first step toward accelerating the development and delivery of vaccines for AIDS, malaria, TB, and other diseases disproportionately affecting the developing world. This investment is part of a comprehensive plan for action that will meet the Administration's commitment in this area, as described in the President's September speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

"AIDS and other infectious diseases are the largest catastrophes in the history of modern medicine," Vice President Gore said. "We hope this initiative will provide relief and hope to the millions of children and families around the world."

THE AIDS PANDEMIC THREATENS THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL STABILITY OF SUB SAHARAN AFRICA AND ASIA. The United Nations calls the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa "the worst infectious disease catastrophe since the bubonic plague." An estimated 5.7 million people were infected with HIV by the end of 1999, and India may have become the country with the largest number of new infections this year.

- Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia disproportionately bear the impact of the AIDS epidemic. While sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only one-tenth of the global population, over 70 percent of individuals infected with AIDS globally live there. Currently, 22.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, and every day, an additional 11,000 become infected. In Asia, HIV and AIDS is already widespread. Because this region has 60 percent of the world's population and has the steepest infection curve, experts are predicting that Asia will soon become the epicenter of the epidemic. In addition, during the next decade, more than 40 million children in Africa will be orphaned by AIDS, making it difficult -- if not impossible -- for them to obtain adequate food, clothing, education, and health care services.

- The AIDS epidemic is jeopardizing the economic stability of the sub-Saharan African and Asian regions. The economic toll in HIV and AIDS are taking in Africa underscores the linkage between the spread of this disease and poverty in the region. Although Africa is making unprecedented economic gains, they are jeopardized by an infection which is killing skilled personnel -- and which demands increased investment in government spending.

- The AIDS pandemic threatens Africa and Asia's regional and national security. High levels of HIV infection among members of the armed forces weakens their ability to perform their national duties. In addition, studies have linked the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS to future increases in crime and civil unrest as these children raise themselves alone, often turning to crime, drugs, prostitution, and gangs to survive.

ONE THIRD OF ALL DEATHS EACH YEAR WORLDWIDE -- 17 MILLION PEOPLE -- RESULT FROM INFECTIOUS DISEASES. The developing world bears a disproportionate burden of these diseases, which not only destroy lives, but perpetuate the cycle of sickness and poverty. Vaccines have been critical and cost-effective weapons that have eradicated smallpox, reduced polio to the lowest levels in history, and drastically lowered measles rates. Building upon these extraordinary achievements, we must work to ensure that all children have access to effective vaccines.

- Over eight million children die each year of centuries-old diseases -- and more than four million of these deaths could be prevented by existing vaccines. The dramatic expansion of vaccine coverage in the past several decades now saves almost three million lives each year, and prevents hundreds of thousands of cases of paralysis and blindness. Yet, the wider use of existing vaccines against hepatitis B, certain forms of meningitis, yellow fever, and other diseases could prevent an additional four million deaths each year and reduce untold suffering.

- Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health interventions. It costs only $15 to immunize a child, yet in developing countries, children remain 10 times more likely to die of a vaccine-preventable disease than those in the industrialized world.

- Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the well-being and productivity of the poorest countries. Investments in health are as central to economic progress in poor countries as investments in education and physical infrastructure. Yet, because these countries often cannot afford to buy vaccines, the market does not provide incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines for diseases that disproportionately affect developing nations.

- Effective vaccines do not yet exist for malaria, TB and AIDS, which kill nearly 6 million people each year. Because developing countries often cannot afford to buy vaccines, the market does not provide incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines for diseases that disproportionately affect those countries. Only 2 percent of all global biomedical research by the public and private sectors is devoted to the major killers in the developing world. Vaccines are the best solution for these diseases, but progress has stalled. The global community must intensify both research and development, and make commitments to purchase new vaccines for these diseases when developed.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE UNVEILS NEW, $150 MILLION INITIATIVE TO COMBAT AIDS AND OTHER INFECTIOUS DISEASES. Today, in a speech before the United Nations, Vice President Gore will announce that the President's FY 2001 budget will include a new, multi-million dollar investment in combating the spread of HIV, AIDS, and other infectious diseases in Africa, Asia and other developing countries. This initiative will:

- Invest an additional $100 million in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment efforts in Africa and Asia. The President's budget will invest a total of $325 million in HIV prevention and AIDS treatment around the world, doubling last year's allocation. Funds will be targeted to the countries where the disease is most widespread and where our efforts will have the greatest impact. Activities include:

Increasing primary prevention efforts. To reduce the incidence of new HIV infections, this initiative will help to: implement mass education efforts and community based counseling and testing services, provide AZT short-course therapy to infected individuals to prevent further transmission, implement treatment protocols to reduce mother to child transmissions, and implement blood supply screening procedures.

Providing care and treatment for individuals infected with HIV. Currently, treatment options for HIV infected people in sub-Saharan Africa and India are limited; less than 5 percent of people know their HIV status, and health care providers are often without the tools necessary to diagnose and treat HIV and the associated opportunistic infections. This initiative will provide medical and social services to individuals with HIV, including treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, opportunistic infections associated with HIV, and tuberculosis.

Caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Together with host government and social service agencies, this initiative will invest $10 million to provide school fees, food assistance, counseling, basic health care, and other services that orphaned children need through community mobilization programs.

Strengthening the public health infrastructure. This initiative will assist African and Asian institutions in effectively tracking the spread of HIV infections throughout the Sub-Saharan and Asian regions, in order to focus HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment resources and provide training and technical assistance to developing clinics and community based organizations delivering prevention and care.

Assisting armed forces in preventing the spread of HIV within military organizations. The DoD will work with its African counterparts to invest $10 million to prevent the spread of HIV within military agencies throughout Africa.

Initiating HIV prevention programs in the workplace. This initiative will invest $10 million to initiate workplace programs designed to reduce discrimination against employees infected with HIV and AIDS. Funds will also be used to develop partnerships with the business and labor communities to launch HIV prevention activities for employees, their families and communities.

- Invest $50 million in purchasing vaccines for developing countries. As part of a broad Administration vaccine initiative, the budget includes a new $50 million investment in the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines. The fund, administered by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI), a new, collaborative effort of UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and other governments and private organizations around the world.

Initial contributions to this fund will be used to purchase existing vaccines for hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae B, and yellow fever, along with related safe injection equipment. Vaccine purchases will be administered through UNICEF, which runs an efficient immunization program today.

This fund is one step toward encouraging the development and delivery of new vaccines. The developed nations have the scientific and technological capacity to make new vaccines possible, and a renewed international commitment to purchase vaccines will encourage private research and development. The Administration is now developing further proposals to accelerate the invention and production of new vaccines, and to increase investment by developing nations in building sound delivery systems for vaccines, medicines, and other basic health services.


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