Senate Passes Bill To Protect World’s Orphans, Vulnerable Children, Many of Whom Affected by AIDS
The Senate on Monday passed a bill (HR 1409) that aims to protect orphans and other vulnerable children in developing countries, many of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS, according to a release from the office of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) (Boxer release, 10/25). The bill, introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would establish within USAID a special adviser for orphans and vulnerable children. The adviser would coordinate U.S. assistance to orphans and vulnerable children, including aid to programs that provide basic care and services, treatment for HIV-positive children, psychosocial support and education, as well as programs that provide food at schools, work to abolish school fees and promote inheritance rights for children (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/19). The bill now will go to President Bush for consideration. "This is tremendous news for millions of children in poor countries," Milly Katana, a Ugandan AIDS advocate visiting the U.S., said (Global Action for Children release, 10/25). "This bill improves our ability to provide assistance to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries, who otherwise stand to lose generations of educated and trained professionals who can contribute meaningfully to their countries' development," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said. Lugar is the co-sponsor of a pending bill in the Senate that would accelerate the development of vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. The bill would require the U.S. to establish a comprehensive strategy that enhances partnerships between the public and private sectors. It also would require the U.S. to buy vaccines for the diseases through "advance market commitments" and create tax credits for companies that invest in the research and development of treatments for the diseases (Lugar release, 10/25).
The passage of the bill comes as UNICEF and UNAIDS, along with other organizations and agencies, on Tuesday launched a campaign to garner funding and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS (Dugger, New York Times, 10/26). The campaign -- called Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS -- will focus on reducing the incidence of mother-to-child HIV transmission, curbing the spread of the virus among young people, and providing protection and emotional and financial support to children who have lost parents to AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/25). As part of the launch, the agencies sent text messages to millions of cell phone users in Africa to promote the campaign. The campaign aims to use "simple, inexpensive steps" to reach its goals, such as providing the inexpensive and widely available antibiotic cotrimoxazole to HIV-positive children to prevent opportunistic infections, according to Peter McDermott, head of HIV/AIDS programs at UNICEF. In addition, the campaign aims to encourage research to create simple, low-cost HIV tests for infants and young children, as well as low-cost pediatric antiretroviral drugs in syrup forms (New York Times, 10/26). Pamela Barnes, chief operating officer of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, "We must all work together to get children tested for HIV and started on antiretroviral treatment before it's too late" (EGPAF release, 10/25).