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Published 30th May 2003

Vol 44 No 11

Spinning the continent

Washington's political managers believe their Africa policy can win votes at home and undermine France at the G-8 summit

A standing ovation greeted President George W. Bush as he marched into the State Department auditorium on 28 May to sign a new bill providing US$15 billion for HIV/AIDS, to be spent mainly in Africa. In a bid for US leadership of the international campaign against HIV/AIDS, Bush called the initiative 'a great mission of rescue' and urged Europe, Japan and Canada to 'match their good intentions with real resources.' With the HIV/AIDS law rushed through Congress, Bush will be able to admonish his rich-country counterparts to do more on HIV/AIDS when France hosts the G-8 summit in Evian on 8 June and some of them will hit back with accusations of US unilateralism and hypocrisy on free trade. The State Department was packed with well-wishers foreign policy enthusiasts from the Democrats and the governing Republicans, former Zambian President and HIV/AIDS campaigner Kenneth Kaunda, evangelical Christians, health campaigners and Africa advocacy groups which see HIV/AIDS as the central issue facing the continent. There are doubts about the new law. Only twelve African countries will benefit initially. It merely authorises spending up to $15 bn. over five years. It doesn't guarantee that figure will be paid out. Although the act is called an emergency measure to fight HIV/AIDS, there will be no disbursements until 2004, when some $2 bn. in payments are planned rising to $3.8 bn. in 2008 when Bush could be out of power.

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Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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