Congress Sends Global HIV/AIDS Legislation to the President
WASHINGTON, July 24 /EMWNews/ - The landmark U.S. effort to fight HIV/AIDS around the world will be expanded and extended by five years thanks to legislation that Congress passed today. By a vote of 303 to 115, the House approved Senate amendments to the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5501), which passed the House in its original form in April. President Bush plans to sign the measure into law next week. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, shepherded the legislation through the House and took an active role in negotiations with the Senate. In arguing for its final consideration today, he told his colleagues, "The measure before the House today is a compromise - a compromise between Democrats and Republicans, between the House and the Senate, and between Congress and the Executive Branch. The fact that compromise was achievable in this highly-politicized era is a testament to the bipartisan roots of this legislation." In 2003, then-chairman and ranking member of the committee, Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA), worked closely with the White House to craft a global HIV/AIDS bill that enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in the House and Senate. "This groundbreaking legislation had clear and achievable goals: to respond with compassion to those who were dying of AIDS, dramatically increase our nation's efforts to stop the spread of the HIV virus, provide care to children orphaned by AIDS, and get lifesaving medications immediately to those in need," Berman noted. "As a result, our nation has provided life-saving antiretroviral medicines to nearly one and a half million men, women and children; supported care for nearly seven million people, including nearly three million orphans and vulnerable children; and prevented an estimated 150,000 infant infections around the world. Most importantly, the United States has given hope to millions infected with the HIV virus, which just a few short years ago was tantamount to a death sentence." The 2003 law provided the U.S. global health effort $15 billion over five years; the legislation that Congress is sending to the White House today authorizes nearly $50 billion. It contains provisions that move the global HIV/AIDS program beyond the "emergency" phase of implementation under the Presidents Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and seeks to make the programs that it supports more sustainable over the long term. It dramatically boosts HIV/AIDS programming related to women and girls; strengthens health systems in countries hard-hit by the virus that causes AIDS; authorizes HIV/ADIS programs to include linkages to food and nutrition, education and health care programs; and increases U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "The 2003 law worked well as an emergency intervention to deal with the rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS crisis," Berman said. "But the nature of the disease has changed significantly since then. We now have five years of experience in grappling with this pandemic on a global scale, and this legislation reflects what we have learned." The Lantos-Hyde bill overturns the controversial and ineffective 1/3 abstinence-only requirement that applies to global HIV/AIDS prevention funding. In an effort to ensure that our contributions to the Global Fund are being wisely spent, the bill provides for certain benchmarks to improve the transparency and accountability the Fund. And it seeks to further integrate HIV/AIDS programs with those addressing TB and malaria, and to create linkages and referrals between these programs for patients. "With passage of this reauthorization bill, Congress signals to the world that the United States will exercise continued leadership in the global battle against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS," Berman said. During its consideration of the House bill, the Senate made several changes. It overturned the existing visa ban on HIV-positive individuals, modified the goal for the treatment of people living with AIDS, and removed a linkage between the global HIV/AIDS program and family planning.
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