The bill H.R. 1298 is consistent with the funding requests that President Bush outlined in his State of the Union address in January. It calls for $15 billion—including $10 billion in new money—to support global emergency HIV/AIDS relief. Specifically, it authorizes $3 billion a year to fight HIV and AIDS in fourteen countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Of this $3 billion, up to $1 billion will go to the Global Fund to Fight, AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which is in desperate need of further funding. The legislation emphasizes a multi-faceted approach to fighting the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and includes initiative for prevention, education, research, treatment, and care. It also emphasizes an approach to prevention commonly refered to as the ABC or “Uganda model.” Although the model has its origins in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) scientifically-proven model for the prevention of sexually transmitted HIV, it disregards the carefully articulated context in which this approach can be used effectively. (To read more about WHO’s HIV prevention model, link to this) The differences between these two models may seem insignificant to some, they could be the difference between life and death for millions.
AIDS Action is also particularly concerned about the possible effects of two amendments that were added to the legislation on the House floor. The first amendment, introduced by Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), earmarks at least 33 percent of the bill’s prevention funding to abstinence-until-marriage programs. The second, “conscience clause,” amendment, sponsored by Pitts, Hyde, and Representative Rick Renzi (R-AZ) will allow organizations to receive the prevention funds even if they choose to omit certain prevention measures, such as the distribution of condoms, from their prevention strategy because they have religious or moral objections to them.
AIDS Action supports the inclusion of a wide array of prevention strategies in the U.S. response to global HIV/AIDS; however, we are committed to a comprehensive prevention policy. For this reason, we want assurance from our political leaders that these amendments will not set the prevention standard in our nation’s response, and that no single prevention model will receive preferential treatment in the assignment of funding.
Now that the House has passed its version of the legislation, the Senate will have to follow suit. However, the Senate is still in the drafting stage of development for its version of the global AIDS legislation, and a bill has not even been brought to committee yet—the first step in a bill’s consideration.
Senator Richard Luger (R-IN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has expressed interest in seeing a global HIV/AIDS bill considered in committee during the week of May 12th. However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has said that he would like to bring the bill to the floor before Memorial Day, and some aides say that the bill might bypass the committee and move straight to the floor in order to expedite its consideration by the full Senate. The President has also urged Congress to move forward on this legislation with speed.
AIDS Action will continue to monitor the movement of the global AIDS legislation through the Senate and beyond. We will continue to provide updates on its progress.
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