This afternoon, Secretary Clinton and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's minister for international relations and cooperation, signed a PEPFAR partnership framework agreement, a five-year plan of cooperation for fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa. PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is a U.S. government initiative, begun under George W. Bush's administration, to work with other countries to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide.
At the signing ceremony, Clinton said, "We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/AIDS.… And what South Africa has done is to make a tremendous commitment by doubling its investment, now covering 60 percent of the total spending. There is so much that's being done at the grassroots level on prevention, efforts against discrimination, treating people with HIV, and doing so much more to put together a comprehensive strategy."
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While in Vietnam today, Secretary Clinton engaged in health diplomacy by visiting the Ngoc Lam Pagoda orphanage for AIDS-affected children. After meeting with the kids, she signed a partnership agreement with Vietnamese Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong that provides a five-year plan of cooperation between Vietnam, the United States, and other stakeholders to effectively respond to HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. It also contributes funds to PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) for prevention, care, and treatment.
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Two Bills testified on Capitol Hill today: Bill Clinton and Bill Gates. In front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the two spoke in favor of legislation that would increase support for global health and testified about more cost-effective ways to tackle HIV/AIDS and poverty worldwide.
Gates is co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Clinton of course has his Clinton Global Initiative. Gates's testimony is here, and it looks like Clinton's statement hasn't been uploaded yet.
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The State Department's U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and director of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) position was unexpectedly vacated last week by its incumbent, Dr. Mark R. Dybul. Dybul initially told colleagues on January 9th that he had been asked to stay for several months; the day after Hillary Clinton was confirmed, she announced that he had resigned, though he's reportedly told friends he was asked to leave.
Michael Gerson wrote an op-ed on Wednesday criticizing the move, calling Dybul "almost universally respected among legislators, AIDS activists, foreign leaders and health experts." But it's not just conservative op-ed writers who are concerned; PEPFAR is one of the few things many health and development experts believe the Bush administration got right. The Times reports that nearly 70 anti-AIDS groups sent Clinton a letter this week asking for a delay in naming a successor and for a more open process in deciding on the next chief.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood was quizzed today about Dybul's sudden departure.
QUESTION: On Mark Dybul. Mr. Wood, The Washington Post reported January 28th that the day after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, your Global Coordinator on HIV/AIDS, Ambassador Mark Dybul, quote, “received a call asking him to submit his resignation and leave by the end of the day his office,” unquote. I am wondering why and what happened.
MR. WOOD: Well, very simple.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. WOOD: It’s very simple. I’m going to explain.As you know, at the end of an administration, on January 20, officials who are political appointees are required to submit their resignations and depart. And that’s all that was. It was for not just Mr. Dybul but other, you know, officials from the Bush Administration. They are required to submit their resignations and to depart. That was a part of it.
Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) reportedly approached Clinton recently to recommend Harvard professor and former WHO AIDS chief Dr. Jim Yong Kim for the position, only to be told that Clinton had already offered it to Dr. Eric Goosby, who led AIDS initiatives for the Clinton administration. Goosby refused to comment, according to the Times.
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