Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Section: International AIDS Conference
Copyright: 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Mark Schoofs, Rachel Zimmerman Staff Reporters Of The Wall Street 
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


BARCELONA, Spain -- Former President Clinton acknowledged, "I was wrong" 
about one of the most controversial AIDS decisions of his presidency: his 
refusal to lift the ban on federal funding of needle-exchange programs.

A government panel advised him at the time that the practice, used to slow 
the spread of HIV among injection-drug users, was effective and didn't 
promote drug abuse. But Mr. Clinton sided with his drug czar, Gen. Barry 
McCaffrey, who opposed it, Mr. Clinton said Thursday, because of "the 
message it would send on the drug front."

At the XIV International AIDS Conference here, Mr. Clinton met with young 
people in an MTV town-hall style meeting. He also electrified delegates who 
packed a large hall to hear him and other current and former heads of state 
talk about how to build political commitment to fight the pandemic. Friday, 
Mr. Clinton is scheduled to close the conference together with former South 
African President Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Clinton has made fighting AIDS one of his postpresidency priorities, 
and earlier this year the nonprofit group of which he and Mr. Mandela are 
co-chairmen, the International AIDS Trust, commissioned focus-group polling 
to gauge how to pitch its messages to Americans. During an interview and in 
his appearances here, Mr. Clinton hewed closely to those messages, which 
suggest that Americans respond to AIDS best when the economic and 
national-security consequences are highlighted and when the problem appears 
solvable. Mr. Clinton repeatedly stressed that letting AIDS continue to 
devastate poor countries could fuel "narcocrime and terrorism."

He also praised Caribbean nations that banded together to negotiate 70%-90% 
discounts on AIDS drugs made by six major pharmaceuticals companies. Mr. 
Clinton said those nations should pony up whatever they can and that the 
U.S. and Canada should pay the difference.

Advocating for that money from government and private foundations was the 
major specific contribution that Mr. Clinton said he would make to the 
fight against the disease. "I don't think that's a small thing," he said. 
"It's a huge thing."

Mr. Clinton said he believes the U.S. should devote $2.5 billion a year in 
foreign HIV assistance, up from about $1 billion currently, "and if we 
don't do it, we will be spending far, far more than that to clean up the 
mess," he said. He also said he would continue to visit hard-hit countries 
to encourage politicians to tackle the tough issues such as condom use and 
to help them develop national AIDS plans.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom