President Bush Would Support International HIV/AIDS Bill Without ‘Anti-Condom’ Amendments
President Bush would support a $15 billion international HIV/AIDS bill even if the measure does not include "anti-condom" amendments, congressional aides who had been briefed by the White House said yesterday, the Washington Post reports. Bush is scheduled to hold a bipartisan Rose Garden ceremony on Tuesday to show his support for the bill, which is scheduled to come to the House floor next week, according to the Post, which adds that Bush's decision to accept the bill without the amendments "reflects the priority he places on his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief." White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said, "The prevention, care and treatment of AIDS is a high priority for the president, and we are working closely with Congress to pass a bill that gives the president the ability to implement what he outlined, which was based on the successful Ugandan ['ABC' HIV prevention] model." He added that the administration is "pleased that the legislation is moving forward quickly." However, the Post reports that progress on the bill "has been slow because of Republicans' efforts to appease the concerns of conservative groups" (Allen, Washington Post, 4/25). The House International Relations Committee on April 2 approved 37-8 a bill (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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/18). Hyde's bill endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which has had success in lowering AIDS prevalence rates in Uganda (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/3).
Several Republicans in the House plan to introduce amendments to the bill that would prioritize funding for monogamy and abstinence programs over programs that support condom use; allow money to be channeled through church-run groups instead of secular non-governmental organizations; and allow faith-based groups to "opt out" of prevention programs that "conflict with their precepts," the Post reports. While Bush would tend to support such amendments, he would also sign the bill without them, the aides said, according to the Post. Administration officials have said that the president's aim is to "get health care to people with AIDS, and that trump[s] concerns that might be deal-breakers in other circumstances," the Post reports. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), one of the bill's co-sponsors, said that she was "delighted that the president is endorsing the bill in its current form" (Washington Post, 4/25).