Five years ago, President Bush displayed extraordinary leadership in proposing that the United States spend 15 billion dollars over five years to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Republicans and Democrats have many differences over foreign policy, but on this issue, we can all agree – and I believe the overwhelming majority of the international community agrees – that it was the right thing to do.
This committee, then under the control of our Republican colleagues, responded to the President’s call by approving the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act. This groundbreaking legislation reflected a broad bi-partisan commitment to respond with compassion to those dying of AIDS, to dramatically boost our efforts to stop the spread of the HIV virus, and to get lifesaving drugs immediately to those who could be saved.
The carefully negotiated, compromise bill – a tribute to the leadership of our late good friends and former chairmen, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos – enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the full House, and was signed into law by President Bush.
As a direct result of the committee’s work as well as so many others, our nation has provided life-saving drugs to nearly one and a half million men, women and children; supported care for nearly seven million people, including 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children; and prevented an estimated 150,000 infant infections.
Most importantly, the landmark legislation approved by this committee helped to ensure that HIV/AIDS is no longer the certain death sentence it was just five short years ago. Hospital corridors that were jammed with AIDS patients waiting to die now brim with hope as lifesaving drugs are dispensed.
The legislation which originated in this committee has firmly established the United States as the leading provider in the world of HIV/AIDS assistance for prevention, treatment and care.
We are here today to consider legislation to reauthorize this vitally important statute, and to reaffirm our commitment to the programs and policies established five years ago. The 2003 legislation worked well, but it now must be modified to reflect the changing nature of the HIV/AIDS crisis. We also have five years of experience under our belts; we know what works and what doesn’t.
The law we passed in 2003 was designed to deal with the emergency phase of the global HIV/AIDS crisis. The new legislation now will move our programs toward sustainability. Host governments must have the ability to plan, direct, and manage the programs already set into place.
The 2003 legislation authorized 15 billion dollars over five years. In response to the desperate need for lifesaving medicine and new health care workers in nations hit hard by HIV/AIDS, the bill before us authorizes $50 billion over five years.
The 2003 law relied upon the health care workforce already in place in the developing world. The new legislation invests funds in strengthening HIV-related health care delivery systems and building health workforce capacities.
The 2003 law focused on creating new programs to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis. The reauthorization bill builds stronger linkages between the global HIV/AIDS initiative and existing programs designed to alleviate hunger, improve health care, and bolster schools – an approach endorsed by the President’s Global AIDS Coordinator in a report issued just a few short weeks ago.
The 2003 law gave inadequate attention to the needs of women and girls. The new legislation remedies this situation by strengthening prevention and treatment programs aimed at this extremely vulnerable population.
Over the past few weeks, we on the committee have discussed various concerns regarding the draft we provided last month to our Republican colleagues and the Administration. In particular, certain terminology and the requirement that 1/3 of all HIV/AIDS prevention funding be spent on abstinence and fidelity programs has been a key feature of our debate, as well as the funding levels and certain limitations in the 2003 act.
I am happy to report to the committee that late last night, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and I reached agreement with the White House on the bill before the committee today. This bi-partisan agreement will greatly facilitate congressional consideration of the vitally important legislation, and I hope and expect that it will be signed into law by President Bush this session of Congress.
The compromise before us today authorizes $50 billion for five years for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
It ensures that HIV/AIDS programs are linked to and integrated with other relevant development programs, such as nutrition, and allows HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to be provided in the U.S. bilateral family planning program.
It eliminates the 1/3 abstinence-only earmark, but requires a balanced approach to HIV/AIDS sexual transmission prevention programs and a report regarding this approach in countries where the epidemic has become generalized if we deviate from that balanced approach.
It provides for certain benchmarks to improve the transparency and accountability of the Global Fund, and makes sure that additional emphasis is placed on women and girls who face the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
This bill is not perfect, but no compromise ever is. However, this agreement between Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, the White House and the committee majority is in the best spirit of the great leaders of this committee who guided the 2003 act into law, Chairman Lantos and Chairman Hyde. It’s appropriate and fitting that this legislation is named for them.
Twenty million innocent men, women and children, we must remember, have perished from HIV/AIDS – 20 million. Forty million around the globe are HIV-positive. Each and every day, another 6000 people become infected with HIV. We have a moral imperative to act, and act decisively.
I urge all my colleagues to join in supporting this important legislation, and I want to particularly thank some key staff members who played a role in putting together the language that constitutes the compromise: On the Democratic staff under the direction of Bob King: Peter Yeo, Doug Campbell, David Abramowitz, Pearl-Alice Marsh, Kristin Wells and Macani Toungara. On the Republican side: Yleem Poblete, Mark Gage, Sheri Rickert, and Mary Noonan. And Mark Synnes, with the Legislative Counsel.