Perhaps you remember the $15 billion President Bush pledged to the global AIDS fight in his State of the Union address back in January. Well, if you thought it was already hard at work feeding Africa’s AIDS orphans, showering people with condoms and treating a promised two million HIVers, think again. At press time, Congress was gearing up for battle royale over who should control the bucks—the U.S. State Department or the Global AIDS Fund, “an international umbrella group that President Bush helped found but that he now seems to have cooled on,” the Washington Post editorialized. An early House version of the bill hopes for $1 billion for the Fund in fiscal 2004—besting Bush’s boast of the same amount over five years.

Stalled by a harrowing chastity-and-monogamy debate in the GOP-led House International Relations Committee, the bill dodged amendments that would have dumped condoms in favor of abstinence. El prez gave it a boost when he shocked all by pushing for its passage without the Christian right’s blessing. But even if some version passes, hold your applause. The cash won’t reach HIVers until 2005, at the earliest