President Bush To Support Global AIDS Bill Amid Resistance From Some Conservatives
President Bush today in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House is expected to support a global HIV/AIDS bill (HR 1298) that would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight international AIDS despite "objections from his conservative base," the New York Times reports (Bumiller, New York Times, 4/29). The bill, sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), 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. 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, 4/25). Some House conservatives have said that the abstinence provisions included in the bill "lac[k] teeth," the Washington Times reports (Lakely, Washington Times, 4/29). The bill also allows international organizations that counsel about abortion to receive U.S. funding from the United States on the condition that family planning and abortion programs be financed and run separately. Conservatives had previously recommended that no U.S. funding go to international groups that offer abortion counseling. Some bill opponents say that Bush's support of the bill is "merely an attempt to win favor with moderate swing voters" in the 2004 election, the New York Times reports. Ken Connor, president of Family Research Council, said, "This is about politics. The AIDS lobby will be very happy, the homosexual lobby will be very happy, the condom crowd will be happy, the Planned Parenthood folks will be happy. That's not the president's base" (New York Times, 4/29). Michael Schwartz, vice president of Concerned Women for America, said, "What I don't want to see is another truckload of condoms going to Africa, instead of medicine" (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 4/29).
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) is expected to introduce an amendment to the bill that would allocate one-third of the funding for abstinence programs "specifically," according to the Washington Times. A Pitts aide said, "The status quo is the marketing of condoms, and if there isn't a deliberate means for abstinence, the natural flow of the program will go to condom distribution." Other social conservatives are "so displeased with the final committee language" of the bill that they are calling for the bill's defeat, the Times reports (Washington Times, 4/29). However, Nils Daulaire, president of the Global Health Council, said, "There's no doubt that the administration is serious about AIDS, and they have made a clear decision that politics isn't getting in the way. We can debate the dollar amounts, the slope of the ramp-up, but the critical thing is that we are really moving to a new order of magnitude in the U.S. contribution to the global response" (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 4/29). Kate Carr, president of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, "I think [Bush is] taking a very pragmatic approach to what has to be done" (New York Times, 4/29). She added, "We're pretty happy with this bill. And we are ecstatic with the attention that the president has given this bill. With all the other priorities, he has chosen to focus attention on this. It's time for Congress to do its job and get this bill passed" (Washington Times, 4/29). The bill is scheduled for vote by the full House as soon as Thursday, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could take up the bill next week. White House officials said that final votes are expected in the next month (Lindlaw, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/28). A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of Bush's speech will be available online at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday.