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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Air Taxes to Raise $300M for AIDS, Tuberculosis Treatment

NEW YORK -- A group of countries led by France plans to raise at least $300 million next year, mostly through taxes on airline tickets, to help pay for the treatment of children with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, a senior French official said Monday.

The countries, acting through a new Geneva-based organization called Unitaid, plan to pool their buying power.

The countries -- France, Brazil, Britain, Norway and Chile -- will announce the new undertaking Tuesday at the United Nations. In all, they say, the plan can help pay for the treatment of 100,000 children with AIDS, and another 100,000 people who have become resistant to antiretroviral AIDS drugs.

"We would not permit thousands of children to die in the United States and France," said Jean Dussourd, a French official who is coordinating the project for French President Jacques Chirac. "Why should we allow that in Asia and Africa?"

The new infusion of money was welcomed by public health experts, who said long-term financing through dedicated taxes was especially suited for the lifelong treatment of people with AIDS.

Though France and the other donors have promised that the aid would be in addition to other poverty financing, some analysts worry that the airline tax revenue will eventually supplant traditional sources of assistance from annual government budgets.

Other experts warned that the focus on the purchase of medicine and diagnostic tests did not deal with the most difficult obstacles to treatment in Africa: the extreme shortage of health workers and broken-down public health systems.

"Any solution that addresses diagnostics and drugs but not the human resources crisis and the lack of political will in many African settings will not be comprehensive," said Dr. Mark Kline, a pediatrics professor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, which is sponsoring 50 U.S. pediatricians working in seven African countries.