By Gudrun Schultz

NEW YORK, New York, September 22, 2006 ( – UN leaders announced a new plan for a global tax on airline tickets on Tuesday, ostensibly to fund disease treatment in developing countries, the International Herald Tribune reported.

As part of a new UN initiative based in Geneva and known as UNITAID, or “united to aid,” tax revenues generated by the program will go toward the purchase of cheaper drugs to treat AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases plaguing the Third World.

UNITAID will also work to pressure pharmaceutical countries to lower drug costs for struggling countries. The New York Times said the initiative hopes to raise at least $300 million through the airline tax in the coming year.

Led by France, 44 nations have signed on to the program of global taxation, with 18 countries applying an airline tax. A French airline tax on departure flights already went into effect on July 1. Other lead supporters of the program include Brazil, Chile, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Despite the program’s promotion as an humanitarian effort to help suffering children in developing countries, some are questioning the motives behind the UN initiative. They suggest powerful incentives to establish a precedent global source of revenue for the grossly inefficient agency is the driving force behind the program.

“By insisting the money will go to fight deadly diseases, the U.N. hopes that opposition to global taxes can be overcome and that, in the future, the money can go for other purposes, such as creating a standing U.N. army,” warned Cliff Kincaid, editor of the media watchdog the AIM Report, in commentary yesterday.

“But UNITAID deserves serious scrutiny for several reasons. First, it is now conceded that estimates of AIDS cases have been greatly exaggerated by the U.N., especially in Africa. It is not clear what kind of problem we are really facing worldwide.”

“Second, anti-AIDS drugs, which can be toxic to the body and possibly cause the AIDS virus to mutate, are not seen by all experts as a panacea.”

The UN approach to AIDS control in Africa has relied almost exclusively on promoting condom use, an effort that has not been successful in reducing infection rates and which some say has actually led to substantial increases in AIDS.

UNAIDS released a study in 2003 showing that condoms have a 10 percent failure rate in protecting against HIV transmission, even when used properly. Condom promotion has had little to no impact on infection rates over the past 20-some years of aggressive distribution, with infection rates continuing to rise.

Despite the evident failure of the UN approach, the agency has shown hostility toward efforts to promote abstinence and marital faithfulness as the most effective weapon against the spread of the disease. The United Nations envoy to Africa, Canadian Stephen Lewis, has been harshly critical of Uganda’s abstinence campaign that has had enormous success in reducing HIV transmission in the country. The program has reduced infection rates from 18 percent down to 5-7 percent, an unprecedented success rate.

Read coverage by The AIM Report:

See related LifeSiteNews coverage:

United Nations Official Slams US for Abstinence Approach to AIDS in Uganda

United Nations Report says Condoms Fail to Protect against AIDS 10% of the Time

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