Congress Should Approve Increase of 2007 Funding Levels To Ensure Additional Funding for PEPFAR, Opinion Piece Says
A funding resolution being considered in the U.S. Congress that would keep federal spending this year at 2006 levels "would shortchange and potentially sabotage every American program" to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, "leaving innocent people in its wake," Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes in a Washington Post opinion piece (Tutu, Washington Post, 1/15). A disagreement over the budget at the conclusion of the 109th Congress last month froze funding for nearly all federal programs, including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, at 2006 levels. PEPFAR is a five-year, $15 billion program that directs funding for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria primarily to 15 focus countries and provides funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. President Bush had requested an overall PEPFAR funding increase from $3.2 billion in 2006 to about $4 billion for 2007. Before adjourning last year, Congress approved continuing resolutions to keep spending at 2006 levels, and Democratic leaders recently decided to pass another continuing resolution to keep the spending levels the same until October 2007 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12). Tutu writes, "My heart aches to think of the lives that could be saved with nearly $1 billion -- but there is still time for [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.], a longtime leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to do something about it." According to Tutu, PEPFAR "is designed to have its funding increase each year in order to meet its goals." A shortage of funds "will force hundreds of thousands of people to forgo prevention, treatment, care and support for the three most deadly infectious diseases in the world," Tutu writes. Without a funding increase for 2007, it might be "impossible for the United States to continue making headway on the human catastrophe that is HIV/AIDS," he adds. In addition, the Global Fund could lose out on a funding increase that would provide for 555,000 HIV tests, 120,000 TB treatments and 945,000 nets to prevent malaria, Tutu writes. "I hope and pray that Congress will choose the righteous path, the path that will save tens of thousands of lives and give countless children opportunities and hope they have never before imagined," he concludes (Washington Post, 1/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.