Bush Calls on Congress To Pass PEPFAR Reauthorization Bill
President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to pass a bill (HR 5501) that would reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 2/28).
The bill was approved Wednesday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee following meetings between White House officials and committee members earlier this week. The measure would allocate $50 billion for PEPFAR over the next five years. Bush had called on Congress to authorize a $30 billion, five-year extension of PEPFAR. The bill also would remove a requirement that at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. It also would require "balanced funding" for abstinence, fidelity and condom programs based on evidence in each PEPFAR focus country. In addition, the bill would retain the requirement that PEPFAR recipients pledge opposition to commercial sex work.
The bill would allow groups to use PEPFAR funding for HIV testing and education in family planning clinics but not for contraception or abortion services. The bill also would require reports to Congress if abstinence and fidelity programs comprise less than half of country-level spending on programs aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the virus. In addition, the bill would allocate about $9 billion to fight tuberculosis and malaria, which often affect HIV-positive people in Africa. That amount also would underwrite food supplements for people living with HIV/AIDS. The bill would provide loans to women widowed by the disease or ostracized because of their HIV-positive status (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/28).
The full House and Senate must approve the measure before it is sent to Bush for his signature. Bush on Thursday at a news conference said, "Obviously, I hope the House will act quickly and send the bill reauthorizing [PEPFAR] to the Senate, and I would like to sign it into law as quickly as possible" (AFP/Google.com, 2/28).
Two newspapers on Friday published editorials regarding the PEPFAR reauthorization bill. Summaries appear below.
Boston Globe: The agreement between the White House and foreign affairs committee members on the reauthorization bill is "good news," a Globe editorial says, adding that the "effort can help save millions of lives in impoverished countries around the world." The "need" for HIV, TB and malaria treatments worldwide "has grown" since PEPFAR initially was passed in 2003, the editorial adds, concluding that Congress "should act quickly to leave no doubt that ... the U.S. can still lead the world's Samaritans" (Boston Globe, 2/29).
New York Times: The reauthorization bill "will be a welcome strengthening of a foreign aid program that was already one of the shining accomplishments of the Bush administration," a Times editorial says. Although some lawmakers are "grumbling over the amount of money proposed" in the bill, "it is important that Congress appropriate the full $50 billion if possible," the editorial says, adding, "Even that sum would almost certainly not provide universal access" to antiretroviral drugs (New York Times, 2/29).