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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 24 May 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Thu, 24 May 2001

* In Mali, Powell Pledges Administration's Support for Africa
* AIDS Activist Nkosi Johnson's Foster Mother Answers Public's Ques-
  tions on BBC's 

In Mali, Powell Pledges Administration's Support for Africa

In Mali yesterday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the $200 
million contribution to the global AIDS fund recently pledged by 
President Bush is "evidence that the Bush administration won't skimp 
when it comes to fighting AIDS" and reassured observers that Africa 
remains a "priority" for the new administration, the Wall Street 
Journal reports. The visit to Mali is the first stop on a tour that 
will take Powell, one of the administration's "most vocal supporters" 
of Africa, to the "AIDS hot spots" of South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. 
Powell's trip gives the administration "plausible claim to world 
leadership" on HIV/AIDS because it highlights "how quickly" the ad-
ministration is "significantly boosting spending on the crisis," the 
Journal reports. Powell called the initial contribution to the fund a 
"very, very creditable start," adding that the United States does not 
have "anything to apologize about" (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 
5/24). The United States is "giving so much more to this problem than 
any other country or group of countries that we should be very proud 
of what we have done and be energized to do even more," Powell told 
reporters aboard his plane en route to Mali (Barber, Washington 
Times, 5/24). Powell answered critics who say the U.S. contribution 
is "paltry" considering the country's "vast wealth" by stating that 
the funds are meant as "seed money" and that more will follow (Jeter, 
Washington Post, 5/24). Speaking to a crowd of "several hundred" peo-
ple gathered outside a joint Mali/NIH-sponsored malaria research cen-
ter, Powell said that the U.S. government was prepared to "do even 
more" to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the continent (Strobel, 
Knight Ridder/Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/24). The president, he added, 
has "made a commitment to do everything the United States can do to 
solve the problem of communicable diseases" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 5/24). 
Powell, who has said he feels an "emotional connection" with Africa, 
said he does not see the AIDS epidemic "as a black problem and as a 
black man looking at a black problem, but as a secretary of state of 
the United States looking at a human problem" (Nichols, USA Today, 
5/24). Several people involved in crafting the contribution to the 
global fund said Powell "push[ed]" for a "substantial" amount of 
money during two "top-level" White House meetings, which resulted in 
the announcement of the contribution. However, Betty King, a senior 
U.S. representative at the United Nations, urged caution with regard 
to projected spending on HIV/AIDS. "We have difficulties with refer-
ences to 'massively increased resources.' While we expect to continue 
to increase our support, we see the [U.N. General Assembly special 
session on HIV/AIDS] as an opportunity for other donor governments 
and partners in the nongovernmental and private sectors to increase 
their commitments as well," she said.

Keeping Africa on the Priority List

Powell's trip has gone some way toward assuaging fears that Africa 
"wouldn't get as much attention as it did during the Clinton years," 
but some concern remains (Wall Street Journal, 5/24). Powell's trip, 
his longest so far, comes ahead of visits to such "traditionally high 
priority areas" as Europe and Japan. "We realize the importance of 
the continent, the opportunities of the continent and especially the 
problems that the continent is facing," Powell said. Beside the con-
tribution to the global AIDS fund, the U.S. government has announced 
that it will host 35 African leaders in October for the inaugural 
U.S.-African Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum to increase market 
access for African nations. Powell also pledged support for the con-
tinent's young democracies. Before leaving Mali today, Powell will 
tour the African Crisis Response Initiative training center, where 
U.S. troops train foreign troops to deal with their own crises. The 
program, begun in 1996 as an "alternative" to sending U.S. troops 
into foreign conflicts, is believed to be in jeopardy because of re-
marks made this weekend by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who 
"indicated" in an interview that he would like to see U.S. involve-
ment in the program ended or scaled back. Powell said the administra-
tion must "balance" its overseas commitments "against our [other] re-
sponsibilities" (Wright, Los Angeles Times, 5/24).

'Ambivalence' Over Powell

Observers in Mali said a "profound ambivalence" exists among many Af-
ricans toward Powell and that his remarks during the opening days of 
his trip addressed "both the good feelings Africans have toward him 
and the doubts and suspicions they harbor." Powell is a "difficult 
call" for many on the continent, according to Sipho Seepe, a South 
African political analyst. "This is the highest position that a black 
person has ever held in the United States ... There is a sense that 
you have a black person and so he understands poverty, he understands 
discrimination, he is more sympathetic to our humanity than some oth-
ers might be. But on the other hand he made his name in a political 
party that has historically been hostile to Africa, that was an 
avowed ally of apartheid in South Africa," Seepe said, adding that 
Powell's military background also complicates views about him because 
it is seen as "supporting American imperialism," raising the ques-
tion: "Who is Colin Powell loyal to?" Observers question if Powell's 
trip, his third to Africa, is a reflection of a changing attitude by 
the administration toward the continent or whether it is "emblematic 
of [Powell's] independence." Abdul Mohammed, an analyst in Ethiopia, 
said "Africans know for a fact that this is an individual act, by and 
large, and that the system has not really recognized Africa. If his 
coming to Africa prompts some significant action by the system, that 
will be a good thing" (Washington Post, 5/24).  

AIDS Activist Nkosi Johnson's Foster Mother Answers Public's Ques-
tions on BBC's 

Gail Johnson, foster mother of 12-year-old Nkosi Johnson, the South 
African boy who delivered a "powerful" speech at last summer's 13th 
International AIDS Conference in Durban, on Monday took part in a 
live Web cast, answering the public's emails and addressing critics 
who charge that she has "expolit[ed]" Nkosi for "financial gain," the 
BBC's international weekly program "Correspondent" reports ("Corre-
spondent," BBC, 5/17). Nkosi, a black child, has lived with Johnson, 
a white South African woman, since his mother died of AIDS-related 
complications when he was three years old. The pair first came to me-
dia attention five years ago when Johnson sought to enroll Nkosi in a 
local primary school and was met with opposition from those who 
feared "mixing" their children with an HIV-positive child. Since 
then, Nkosi has become a "potent symbol of hope in the fight against 
South Africa's devastating epidemic," "Correspondent" reports. Nkosi, 
who did not have the funds to take antiretroviral medications, "sur-
vived on a healthy diet, vitamin supplements and minimizing the 
stress of being HIV-positive" before experiencing a "series" of brain 
seizures that left him in a coma at the beginning of the year. John-
son's attempt to "push [Nkosi] center stage" as part of fundraising 
efforts for care centers for HIV-positive children and their mothers 
-- called Nkosi's Havens -- prompted criticism from Nkosi's natural 
family that she was using the child for "financial gain" ("Correspon-
dent," BBC, 5/18). 

The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, 
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National 
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser 
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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