Washington, DC – Acting Chairman Howard L. Berman today led the House Foreign Affairs Committee in approving ground-breaking legislation to extend and to expand the U.S.-funded global HIV/AIDS initiative that, during the past five years, has saved millions of lives -- but has also shown to be in need of changes to adjust to the realities of implementation.
With a bipartisan voice vote, the committee passed the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5501). It renews the mandate of an initiative first proposed by the President in January 2003, which was then hammered out and approved by the committee and signed into law that May. An initial draft of the new legislation circulated by the committee majority for the past month, and under discussion on all sides since, then was revised last night in a three-way meeting with members of the committee minority and representatives of the White House; the compromise bill was introduced this morning.
“This bill is not perfect, but no compromise ever is,” Berman noted at the start of a full committee meeting to consider the legislation. “However, this agreement … 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.The legislation passed by the committee today includes more than 95% of the language contained in the original Democratic draft of the five-year reauthorization legislation. It provides $50 billion over the next five years, the amount stipulated in the original Democratic draft. The President previously had called for $30 billion.
“Twenty million innocent men, women and children, we must remember, have perished from HIV/AIDS – 20 million,” Berman continued. “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.”
The new measure contains provisions that move the global HIV/AIDS program beyond the “emergency” phase of implementation under the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and seeks to make the programs that it supports more sustainable over the long term. It dramatically boosts HIV/AIDS programming related to women and girls; strengthens health systems in countries hard-hit by the virus that causes AIDS; authorizes HIV/AIDS programs to include linkages to food and nutrition, education and health care programs; and increases U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The legislation overturns the controversial and ineffective 1/3 abstinence-only requirement that applies to global HIV/AIDS prevention funding, which was included in the 2003 law over the objections of the then-Democratic minority. This restriction has subsequently proven to hamper the effectiveness of health care efforts in the field, as documented in recent, independent reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Instead, the Executive Branch will be directed to promote a “balanced” prevention program in all countries where the program operates, including every element of the Abstinence, “Be Faithful,” and Condoms (ABC) approach toward HIV transmission prevention.
“The 2003 legislation worked well, but it now must be modified to reflect the changing nature of the HIV/AIDS crisis,” Berman told his colleagues. “We also have five years of experience under our belts; we know what works and what doesn’t.”