At the ongoing International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, President Barack Obama has two champions defending his decisions on AIDS funding amid criticisms that the U.S. is abandoning the global effort to address and curb the disease.
Obama was personally hurt by the accusations, according to U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby, who said criticisms of the president’s decisions on AIDS funding were unjust.
“I think it has been frustrating to be presented as a non-contributor. The administration and the president have been hurt by the characterization that the U.S. has not stepped up to the plate and taken this commitment seriously in all arenas,” Goosby said, according to the Guardian.
He said the U.S. has provided more than 50 percent of overall global health spending for AIDS treatment response.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was also attending the summit, likewise defended Obama. In his speech before conference delegates, he argued that despite the global economic recession, Obama has always tried to follow through with his commitments.
“Even his worst critics admit that he tries to keep his commitments, that’s why they don’t like him,” Clinton said.
Critics of Obama’s decision to scale down U.S. assistance for AIDS programs in Africa and proposal to cut U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have said they acknowledge the tight economic situation at present. But they argued that economic recession should not be an excuse for Obama to turn his back on promises he made during his campaign.
“I urge President Obama to reaffirm his presidential campaign promise of expanding PEPFAR ‘by $1 billion a year in new money over the next five years,’ while also supporting maternal and child health,” said Anand Reddi, a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who serves on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s board of directors, in an editorial published by the Huffington Post.
Reddi’s message echoes the call of South African cleric and activist Desmond Tutu.
“I appreciate that tough financial times require the United States government to cut spending. But scaling back America’s financial commitments to AIDS programs could wipe away decades of progress in Africa,” Tutu said.