Friday, May 26, 2006

Jen in Tanzania

Today's Kaiser HIV/AIDS Report includes the following, which I will quote in its entirety because of the sheer quantity of news:
House Appropriations Committee Approves Funding for Millennium Challenge Corporation, President's International AIDS Program, Global Fund
The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday by voice vote approved the $21.3 billion fiscal year 2007 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which includes funds for a variety of foreign assistance programs, including HIV/AIDS programs, the AP/Forbes reports (Sidoti, AP/Forbes, 5/25). The bill includes $3.4 billion to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; $2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, President Bush's foreign aid agency; and $445 million in funding for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill, passed by an appropriations subcommittee last Friday, would reportedly fully finance the administration's international AIDS program request, which increased by $752 million funding from this year; double the amount requested by Bush for the Global Fund from the foreign operations accounts; and reduce by $1 billion the amount requested for MCC. MCC was created to administer funds for the Millennium Challenge Account, a program aimed at encouraging economic and political reforms in developing countries. Twenty-three countries currently are eligible to apply for MCC funding. Bush's February proposal included $3 billion for MCC, which would have provided enough funding to sign agreements with eight additional countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/22).

Now you know that I would usually post something like this with some additional comments about the need for funding for HIV/AIDS on the home front. Not that I begrudge a penny where it is so needed, especially in Africa, but because I always have that silent scream "How about some matching funds for us, huh?"

This time, however, I have just been reading some blogs from Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa, specifically in Tanzania, where I spent some time once upon a time. I actually stayed up all night one night this week (paying the price the next day) reading one blog after another, totally fascinated by what these young people were discovering about themselves and about Africa. One, in particular, made a big impression.

Jen is a community health volunteer in the poorest part of Tanzania, living among the Makonde people, and talking about HIV/AIDS prevention in some fairly creative ways. I could point out specific posts in her blog that would help us have a better view of PEPFAR (she's changed my mind a little), her cheerful attitude about discussing condoms in some unlikely situations, and other rather eye-opening discussions--but I won't. You should read the whole thing. While Jen has been in Tanzania almost a year, she doesn't have frequent access to the Internet (I am shocked that she has any access to the Internet in that location). Her posts are longish but extremely well written. And I think that the effort will be worthwhile in providing some perspective on how PEPFAR funds are being used, both pro and con.

But, of course, we still have the problem of waiting lists for medications here in the US and a looming shortfall in the Texas HIV Medication Program. So I have to point out that that pie is still not as large as it needs to be. Congress needs to do some more baking.

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