Madam Chair, on the President’s request five years ago, Congress launched a global campaign to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and to treat and care for those who were already afflicted. The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act was a bipartisan bill from its inception.
Today, the Foreign Affairs Committee again brings a bipartisan Global HIV/AIDS bill to the floor. And again, this important reauthorization bill enjoys strong support from the White House.
The negotiations that brought forth this compromise bill were conducted in the same bipartisan spirit that guided the 2003 act into law, a spirit made possible by close cooperation between two former chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committee, our late colleagues Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde. And I am pleased to note that this important reauthorization bill is named for these two foreign policy titans in recognition of their contributions to battling HIV/AIDS overseas.
As a direct result of the extraordinarily successful law we passed five years ago, the United States has provided life-saving drugs to nearly 1.5 million men, women and children; supported care for nearly 7 million people, including 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children; and prevented an estimated 150,000 infant infections around the world.
The 2003 legislation firmly established the United States as the leading provider in the world of HIV/AIDS assistance for prevention, treatment and care. It has reminded the global community that Americans are a compassionate and generous people, and so has helped to repair our nation’s badly-damaged image overseas. In many ways, that legislation has had great healing power.
Most importantly, with this initiative we have ensured 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 reauthorization bill before the House today reaffirms our commitment to the programs and policies established five years ago. The 2003 legislation worked well as an emergency intervention, but it must now be modified to reflect the constantly changing nature of the HIV/AIDS crisis. We also have five years of experience under our belts; we know what works and what does not.
The law we passed in 2003 was designed to deal with the emergency phase of the global HIV/AIDS crisis. The Lantos-Hyde bill will move our programs towards long-term sustainability that will keep the benefits of U.S. global HIV/AIDS programs flowing to those in need. With this reauthorization act, host governments will also gain the ability to plan, direct, and manage prevention, treatment and care programs that have been established with U.S. assistance.
The 2003 legislation authorized $15 billion over five years. In response to the desperate need for lifesaving medicine and a greater number of trained health care workers in nations hard hit by HIV/AIDS, the bill before us authorizes $50 billion over five years for these three pandemics.
The 2003 law relied upon the health care workforce already in place in the developing world. Yet in many of the hardest hit areas of the world, there were simply not enough doctors and other health care workers to meet the challenges of this pandemic. The Lantos-Hyde legislation invests funds in training new professionals and paraprofessionals as well as building existing capacity.
The 2003 law focused on creating new programs to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis. The reauthorization bill increases the number of individuals receiving prevention, treatment, and care services. It also builds stronger linkages between the global HIV/AIDS initiative and existing programs designed to alleviate hunger, improve health care, and bolster HIV education in schools – an approach endorsed by the President’s global AIDS coordinator in a report issued just a few 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 especially vulnerable population.
The reauthorization legislation also 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.
The bill before you today is a compromise in the best sense of the word and is in the true spirit of the great leaders of this Committee who guided the 2003 act into law, Chairmen Lantos and Hyde. This bill is the result of more than a year of preparatory work and weeks of discussions, concluding with a bipartisan agreement with the White House. President Bush has indicated his support and his intention to sign it into law as soon as Congress acts.
For all its strengths, the bill before the House today is not perfect. No compromise ever is. No one got everything they wanted in this compromise legislation. But with this agreement, we have maintained the strong, bipartisan coalition behind the global HIV/AIDS initiative, which has been critical to winning rapidly increasing funding levels for this important initiative.
Madam Chair, 20 million innocent men, women and children have perished from HIV/AIDS, and 40 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 to act decisively.