Letter from Africa Action to President George Bush

June 11, 2001
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush,

We are writing you with a very simple and urgent request. An unprecedented global health emergency is killing millions of people around the world. It is devastating the African continent. The human toll of the HIV/AIDS pandemic will soon outpace that of any comparable disease in human history.

We ask you to mandate your administration to respond with the urgency this crisis requires, by reserving at least 5% of the anticipated budget surplus each year to fight the AIDS pandemic and to support related global health needs. At current estimates, this would provide $7.1 billion dollars for fiscal year 2002, and comparable amounts in following years if present forecasts hold true.

For twenty years now the HIV/AIDS pandemic has raced ahead of the global response. Over 50 million people have been infected. Scientists, health workers and activists have gained much experience and know what needs to be done. Although there is yet no cure, antiretroviral drugs can now turn a certain death sentence for millions into years of productive life. The failure to prevent such deaths, when the means are available, will increasingly be seen as the equivalent of mass murder.

In the last year we have seen new levels of public attention. Africans and others have successfully challenged the complacent assumption that those too poor to pay for treatment should simply be left to die. Countries like Brazil, Uganda and Senegal show that the growth of the pandemic can be reversed. It is long past time to scale up action from pilot projects and business-as-usual timetables, to save lives now and stop the pandemic's exponential growth. More African governments are taking action. The U.S. and other rich countries have pledged new resources. But even the most ambitious proposals now being considered by the U.S. government (such as Senator Frist's proposal to add $200 million in new AIDS funding in Fiscal Year 2002 and $500 million in Fiscal Year 2003, for a total of $1.2 billion by the second year) still fall far short of the minimum required.

Fighting the pandemic requires rejecting the false dichotomy between treatment and prevention. Both are necessary. Treatment in turn requires not only drugs, but also effective mechanisms for delivery, care and monitoring. A comprehensive approach also requires strengthening public health systems, combating closely related infectious diseases, and addressing the structural injustices that fuel the pandemic by marginalizing vulnerable groups such as women, unemployed youth and the poor in general.

Some may use the scale of the challenge to argue for continuing to limit the response to prevention and research only. Such an approach would only bring more death while failing to check the pandemic's spread. We will not accept such a dismissal of the value of African lives.

To maximize their capacity to respond, African countries must be freed of the burden of foreign debt so that they can allocate more of their own resources on healthcare. Countries must also be free to exercise their full rights to obtain essential drugs at the lowest-possible cost, including the use of generic manufacturing and imports. But major increases in funding are also essential. Cost estimates vary for the different components of a full-scale response to the global health emergency. Treatment for the estimated 2.4 million Africans infected with HIV who could benefit from antiretroviral treatment, according to one recent estimate, would cost approximately $2.7 billion a year. UNAIDS estimates at least $3 billion a year for needed prevention efforts in Africa. Add in treatment of related diseases, necessary health infrastructure development, and costs in other developing regions such as India and China where the pandemic is beginning to spread more rapidly, and the total required easily falls in the $15 billion to $20 billion a year range. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for a global fund of a more modest amount of $7 to $10 billion a year to support a broad developing world campaign against the AIDS pandemic.

Even the highest figure, however, is less than one penny out of each ten dollars of the gross national product of the world's rich countries. It is a small price to pay to save millions of lives. It is a also a prudent investment, because failing to pay that price will result in profound economic collapse that will ultimately require even greater expense.

Mr. President, we believe that the real question is how much inequality are we prepared to accept in the world today?

The international community is currently considering proposals for a new global fund to respond to the health emergency. Such a fund should provide resources quickly to governments, inter- governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations ready to scale up action against the HIV/AIDS pandemic and related health problems. The U.S. should support this initiative and stand ready to provide the necessary resources. A US commitment of five % of next year's US budget surplus for all global health expenses would only be about one-third of one percent of estimated government revenues, about $25 a year for each American. It is a price we should pay.

Mr. President, we call upon you to acknowledge that human lives that can be saved should be saved, regardless of skin color or location. We ask you to ensure that the U.S. pays its fair share in fighting the most deadly pandemic in human history.


Salih Booker - Executive Director, Africa Action

Congresswoman Eva Clayton (D-NC)

Religious Action Network (RAN):
Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker - Canaan Baptist Church, New York, NY
(RAN Co- Founder and President of the Board of Directors, Africa Action)
Rev. Dr. Charles G. Adams - Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit, MI
Rev. Dr. Christopher Allen Bullock - Progressive Baptist Church, Chicago, IL
Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. - Riverside Church, New York, NY
Rev. Jesse Jackson - Rainbow/PUSH Coalition
Rev. Samuel B. Kyles - Monumental Baptist Church, Memphis, TN
Rev. William Lawson - Wheeler Ave. Baptist
Rev. Samuel Mann - St. Mark’s Church, Kansas City, MO
Bennie Mitchell - US Labor Relations Department, National Baptist Convention, GA
Dr. Otis Moss - Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH
Bishop Norman Quick - Childs Memorial Temple, New York, NY
Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson - Grace Baptist Church, Mt. Vernon, NY
Rev. Morris Shearin - Israel Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr. - Allen Temple Baptist Church
Dr. Emil Thomas - Zion Baptist Church, Washington, DC
Rev. Lonnie Turner - Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Canon Frederick B. Williams - Intercession Episcopal Church, New York, NY (RAN Co-Founder)
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. - Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL
Rev. Johnny Youngblood - St. Paul Community Baptist Church

State and Local Legislators Network:
Arthur M. Cole - National Conference of Black Mayors Inc.
Carl Galmon - President, Louisiana Committee Against Apartheid
Avel Louise Gordly - State Senator, Oregon Legislative Assembly
Assemblyman William Payne - NJ State Assembly
Councilman Bill Perkins - New York City Council
Beryl Roberts - Attorney and former State Representative, Miami, FL
Councilmember Annette Robinson - The Council of the City of New York, Brooklyn, NY
Jack C. Sims - President, Mayland Black Mayors, Inc.
Leroy O. Smith - Denver, CO
Mayor Woodrow Stanley - Flint, MI
Assemblyman Albert Vann - NY State Assembly
Mayor Wellington Webb - Denver, CO

Youth Action Network:
Sean Barry - International Youth Leadership Council, Advocates for Youth, Washington, DC
Kelli Curry - Americans Mobilizing Against the Spread of AIDS in Africa, New York, NY
Jennifer Kloes - Executive Director, Global Youth Connect, New York, NY
Keleigh Matthews - Director of Programs, Metro TeenAIDS, Washington, DC
Obumneme Egwuatu - Attorney, New York, NY
Johnnie Stevens - International Action Center/People Video Network, New York, NY
Neil Watkins - Center for Economic Justice

Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA):
Rob Cavenaugh - Legislative Director, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Larry Daressa - Co-Director, California Newsreel, San Francisco, CA
Julie Davids - Director, Critical Path AIDS Project
Peter J. Davies - US Representative, Saferworld
Rev. Paul Dirdak - Deputy General Secretary of Health and Welfare -
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church Rev. Seamus P. Finn - Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Marcelina Gaoses - Albany, CA
William Goodfellow - Executive Director, Center for International Policy, Washington, DC
Mark Harrington - Senior Policy Director, Treatment Action Group, New York, NY
Clara Lou Humphrey - Colorado
Nuhad Jamal - Executive Director, Eritrean Development Foundation, MD
Susie Johnson - Executive Secretary for Public Policy, United Methodist Women (Washington office)
Kirimi Kaberia - President/CEO, ACTnet, VA
Heeten Kalan - Director, South African Exchange Program on Environmental Justice
Wanjiru Kamau - African Immigrant Foundation, Washington, DC
Sheila Kibuka - Executive Director - Hope Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
Valerie Papaya Mann - Executive Director, Comprehensive AIDS Resource Education Consortium, Washington, DC
David Mozer - Washington State Africa Network
Ms. Mistera Mulugeta - Founder/Executive Director, Axum Institute, MD
Raymond C. Offenheiser - President, Oxfam America
Fr. Phil Reed - Society of Missionaries of Africa
Asia Russell - Coordinator, International Policy, Health GAP Coalition, New York, NY
Ned W. Stowe - Legislative Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers)
Lynda Tidemann - Program Director, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Robert Weissman - Co-Director, Essential Action, Washington, DC
Phyllis S. Yingling - Chair, US Section, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom

CPT Home IP and Healthcare CPT Page on Calls for Funding