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Also urges progress toward HIV, malaria vaccines
President Clinton has jumped on the TB vaccine bandwagon, announcing his intent to call a conference at the White House to discuss new vaccines for TB, HIV, and malaria within the next year. That will mark the second White House conference related to TB issues since First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton met last year with TB experts (see TB Monitor, January 1999, p. 3).
Dates for the upcoming conference haven’t yet been set. When it takes place, White House spokesmen say the chief executive will bring together top TB researchers and heads of the pharmaceutical industry and urge them to partner to find vaccines for HIV and malaria, as well as a better vaccine for TB.
"Vaccines are the best hope for fighting the infectious diseases that continue to take millions of lives in developing countries every year and which feed conflict and strife throughout the world," the president said. He made his remarks during an address to the 54th session of the United Nations in New York.
So far, TB control here at home hasn’t caught the eye of the president, Mrs. Clinton, or Congress in quite the same way as the TB epidemic has in poor countries. As expected, the House budget bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which siphons money to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of TB Elimination, calls for level funding again, with $122 million earmarked for HHS.
Developing countries get money to fight TB
In other parts of the nation’s capital, funding to fight TB in the developing world has scored some big wins. One increase, recently approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Education, and Human Services, has marked a sum for fighting TB in developing countries that will fall somewhere between $35 million and $50 million, says Mark Murray, an aide to congressman David Obey (D-WI). That sum will go to USAID as part of a $735 million package destined for the USAID child survival division, Murray adds.
Funding to USAID to fight HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa also is expected to get an increase of at least $35 million, Murray says. Some of that money will benefit TB as well because increasingly TB and HIV programs in that region are attempting to cooperate with one another.
In addition, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has introduced a bill to increase TB funding to USAID by $60 million — a stunning fivefold increase, says Obey aide Mark Miadusky.
"That’s new money, so it won’t take away from other diseases," notes Miadusky. Unfortunately, the Boxer bill was introduced late, so it won’t be decided on this fiscal year but will have to wait until next year, he adds.
Prodding on the part of Princeton Project 55, a TB-related effort mounted by consumer activist Ralph Nader, may deserve at least some of the credit for increased interest in TB on Capitol Hill. Nader’s forces have lobbied both Boxer and Obey on the TB issue.
Congress also is expected to hand Clinton an extra $100 million the president requested for a special initiative against HIV and AIDS in Africa. In his speech to the UN, Clinton noted that over the next decade, HIV will kill more people in sub-Saharan Africa than all 20th-century wars combined. AIDS, he added, is the "worst infectious disease catastrophe since the bubonic plague."