President Bush signed into law last Wednesday an important bill that authorises greatly increased American spending to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world. Although the money is more than he had originally wanted, Bush willingly accepted the higher numbers. He can be justifiably proud of his administration’s leadership in ramping up its commitments to the global effort to control AIDS.

The only hitch is whether the money will actually materialise in the form of appropriations. The authorising measure calls for $48 billion to be spent over the next five years — mostly for AIDS, with a significant portion for the other two diseases as well. That implies appropriations of roughly $9 billion to $10 billion a year. But if Congress can’t come closer to the authorised amount, the global AIDS bill may turn out to be, as one leading advocate put it, “more rhetoric than reality.”

Meanwhile, an advocacy group for black Americans has come up with a startling insight into the AIDS epidemic in the US by contrasting it with the global epidemic. The administration has not shown the same zeal to control this domestic tragedy that it has shown in the global campaign. Surely we should be doing as much to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus in our own communities as we are trying to do abroad.