House Energy and Commerce Committee Will Draft New AIDS Bill, Rep. Pitts Says on Concerned Women of America Radio Show
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) on Tuesday speaking on "Concerned Women Today," the Concerned Women of America's daily national radio show, criticized the House international AIDS bill (HR 1298) that would authorize funding for global HIV/AIDS programs and said that the House Energy and Commerce Committee "as we speak" is drafting a different version of the bill (Schwartz/Schauer, "Concerned Women Today," Concerned Women for America Radio, 4/15). The House International Relations Committee on April 2 approved 37-8 HR 1298, sponsored by committee chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), that would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight international AIDS. The bill would allocate $3 billion a year for five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Conservative advocates and House representatives have encouraged the Energy and Commerce Committee to draft an international AIDS bill to compete with the measure (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/14).
Conscience Clause for Faith-Based Groups
Pitts said that the current House bill "is actually worse now than when it started" because it is a "compromise" with Democrats, who vetoed some of the "pro-family principles." According to Pitts, the bill "does not prioritize" abstinence and monogamy as patterned after the Ugandan "ABC" HIV/AIDS prevention model; ABC stands for "Abstinence, Be faithful, or use Condoms." Pitts said, "What it does is put condom use and distribution on equal footing with abstinence and monogamy, and that has been proven not to work. It does not provide a conscience clause for faith-based organizations ... and they should not be discriminated against because they may have a conscientious objection against using condoms in their AIDS prevention programs. Without that conscience protection, they probably would not get any money, or they certainly would be at the bottom of the ladder." The Energy and Commerce Committee is drafting a new version of the bill that will include "all of these pro-family provisions," Pitts said, adding, "If the[y] report out a bill, I think it will be a good bill and that should happen fairly soon." Pitts added that he thinks the current House international AIDS bill "could become a funding mechanism for the left" because it increases contributions to the Global Fund and "doesn't lock in hard percentages" ("Concerned Women Today," Concerned Women for America Radio, 4/15). The full program is available online in RealPlayer. The interview with Pitts is approximately 13 minutes into the program.