House Approves, Sends Bush Final Version of $15B Global AIDS Bill; Bush Challenges European Leaders To Support AIDS
The House yesterday approved by voice vote a final version of an international HIV/AIDS bill (HR 1298) that would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean and sent the measure to President Bush for his consideration, the New York Times reports (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 5/22). The House earlier this month approved the measure, sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), which would authorize $3 billion a year for five years to international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which has had success in lowering HIV prevalence rates in Uganda. The package recommends that 55% of direct aid go to treatment programs, 20% to programs aimed at preventing HIV infections, 15% to palliative care and 10% to programs assisting children who have lost one or both of their parents due to AIDS-related causes. The measure also specifically allocates one-third of the bill's HIV/AIDS prevention funding for abstinence programs. The Senate approved the measure on Friday, adding an amendment that would increase funding for debt relief in countries hit hardest by HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/16). Bush, who plans to sign the legislation next week in a White House ceremony, had asked Congress to send him the bill in time for the G8 summit to be held in Evian, France, early next month (Epstein, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22). Bush is expected to use the bill to persuade other countries to contribute more money to fighting the disease, according to the AP/Charlotte Observer (Abrams, AP/Charlotte Observer, 5/21).
While the bill could nearly triple the U.S. contribution to the international fight against HIV/AIDS, Congress must still approve the actual spending levels during its budget appropriations process (New York Times, 5/22). While the bill calls for $3 billion a year, the Bush administration in its FY 2004 budget proposal only recommended $1.7 billion for the initiative. Lawmakers seeking to increase the amount will have to compete with rising military and security costs, an expanding budget deficit and a push for tax cuts, the AP/Observer reports (AP/Charlotte Observer, 5/21). In addition, the amount actually appropriated toward the bill's $1 billion recommended contribution to the Global Fund is contingent upon the contributions of other countries. Under the measure, the United States can contribute up to $1 billion to the fund but only if that amount totals no more than one-third of the fund's total contributions. Therefore, in order for the total $1 billion to be appropriated, other nations must contribute more money (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22). Bush is expected to use the new law "as leverage" to encourage support from other countries. HHS Secretary and Global Fund Chair Tommy Thompson on Tuesday "jump start[ed]" this effort by urging the European Union to increase its commitment to the Global Fund (State Department release, 5/21).
Bush Challenges European Leaders To Increase Support for AIDS
Bush yesterday in a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut accused European leaders of not doing enough to fight AIDS and of hindering U.S. efforts to fight famine in Africa, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Hutcheson, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22). "When I travel to Europe next week, I will challenge our allies to make a similar commitment, which will save even more lives. I will remind them that the clock is ticking," Bush said (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/22). He added, "I will urge our European partners ... Japan and Canada to join a great mission of rescue, and to match their good intentions with real resources" (Kornblut, Boston Globe, 5/22). According to the Inquirer, Bush's focus on AIDS might help him "head off attempts by his critics to turn next week's [G8] summit into a debate over dealing with postwar Iraq" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/22). Bush yesterday also announced a new initiative, Volunteers for Prosperity, which will enable doctors, engineers and other professionals to take short-term assignments of several weeks or months to work on humanitarian projects in developing nations. White House aides said that the initiative will be funded largely by private donations and will address the excess demand for Peace Corps positions (Milbank, Washington Post, 5/22). There are currently 183,000 applicants for the 7,000 Peace Corps slots, according to the AP/Nando Times (Raum, AP/Nando Times, 5/21).
Several lawmakers yesterday issued press releases in reaction to the bill's final passage. A summary of their statements appears below:
- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas): Although "[f]ive years and $15 billion are enormous figures," there are "innovative policies behind the numbers that will actually save lives," House Majority Leader DeLay said. "The Uganda model could be the light at the end of the tunnel," he said, adding, "The abstinence-based education programs follow data, not dogma" (DeLay release, 5/21).
- Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.): The money authorized by the bill "will help provide life-saving medicines" for HIV-positive people, "help promote abstinence and provide funding for clinics that support and treat patients," Speaker Hastert said, adding, "The passage of this much needed legislation is not only a huge victory for President Bush, it is also a huge victory for millions of people who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS" (Hastert release, 5/21).
- Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.): Hyde, who chairs the Committee on International Relations, said that he hopes that the legislation is presented to Bush prior to his departure for the G8 summit in France next month, adding, "America does not have to take on the HIV/AIDS crisis alone. But as is often the case, American leadership -- political or financial -- is necessary if our friends around the world are to bear their fair share of the burden." Hyde concluded, "Left unchecked, this plague will further rip the fabric of developing societies, pushing fragile governments and economies to the point of collapse" (Committee on International Relations release, 5/21).
- Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.): The bill's passage "marks a major step in the United States' leadership toward combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and worldwide," McCollum said. She added, "We now have a responsibility to monitor and implement this initiative to ensure our prevention efforts are successful. This is a major, long-term commitment to combating global HIV/AIDS" (McCollum release, 5/21).
- Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.): Moran said that he has "serious concerns" regarding the bill's specific provisions on abstinence education. "Abstinence, while a prevention strategy, is not a public health program," he said, adding, "Rather than take money to preach abstinence from a moral high ground, we should dedicate the funds to teach all people about the nature of HIV/AIDS and the methods in which to best protect oneself." Moran said that he hopes the Bush administration "will exercise flexibility and good sense in allowing for every approach to be used to combat this global pandemic" (Moran release, 5/21).
- Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.): "Thanks to President Bush's leadership, we have a bill that will save lives because it is based on methods that work," Pence said, adding, "The bill follows the Uganda model, which places abstinence and faithfulness to your spouse ahead of condom distribution." Calling the abstinence provision "a major victory," Pence said, "Reports show that African nations that prioritize condom distribution have a much higher level of infection than nations that prioritize abstinence and monogamy" (Pence release, 5/21).
- Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.): Pitts, who sponsored an amendment to the bill that specifically allocates one-third of the bill's HIV/AIDS prevention funding for abstinence programs, said, "I am pleased that we were able to act quickly on this life-saving piece of legislation." He added, "Now President Bush can go to the G8 summit with a bill in hand that signals our commitment to lead the fight against this terrible disease with strategies that save lives and promote healthy behavioral changes" (Pitts release, 5/21).
Fact Sheet Highlights G8 Funding of International AIDS Programs
The Kaiser Family Foundation yesterday released a new fact sheet, titled "Global HIV/AIDS Support from G8 Countries," that provides a summary of how much money G8 member nations -- including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- are spending to support HIV/AIDS efforts in highly affected countries through programs of prevention, care and impact mitigation. According to the fact sheet, most of the member nations are major donors of HIV/AIDS programs. The fact sheet also compares funding commitments by G8 members, discusses new U.S. commitments being considered by Congress and explains the different ways that funds are allocated (Kaiser Family Foundation, "Global HIV/AIDS Support from G8 Countries," May 2003). The fact sheet is available online.