House renews world AIDS relief program

The House today voted 308-116 to reauthorize the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — America’s effort to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide — at $50 billion over five years, considerably more than the $30 billion for which President Bush had asked.

lee3.jpgRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was among the five original co-authors both of this H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act, and the original PEPFAR legislation back in 2003. Of the reauthorization, she said today there’s “perhaps no other piece of legislation that Congress will consider this year that will have greater impact on the lives of people around the world.”

Lee said she’s sad that former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, who died Feb. 11, and former chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who died in November, weren’t here to see this bipartisan compromise.

She noted the bill passed today includes language from her own PATHWAY Act, H.R. 1713 — which strikes the requirement that at least a third of U.S. funds for global HIV/AIDS prevention be earmarked for abstinence-until-marriage programs. Indeed, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement today saying he’s “disappointed the Majority turned back a balanced Republican alternative that would have authorized funding for the PEPFAR program at the level requested by President Bush, while protecting taxpayers from funding programs that support abortions overseas.”

Lee also noted the House version doesn’t include language from her H.R. 3337, the HIV Non-Discrimination in Travel and Immigration Act, which would overturn the current travel and immigration ban on people living with HIV/AIDS wishing to enter the United States. “I’m happy that the Senate version of PEPFAR does adopt the language to eliminate the ban,” she said. “I will work with my colleagues to make sure that when we get to conference, the ban is repealed once and for all.”

Some other quotable quotes about the PEPFAR reauthorization, after the jump…

From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

pelosi12-14-06.jpg“The legislation before us today will move us from the emergency phase to the sustainability phase in fighting AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. My colleagues have presented the provisions of the bill to you, so I’ll just submit mine for the record, and just say in the closing that the Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Act is our compact with developing nations across the globe. It says that America stands with them in this fight, that our commitment will not waver, and shows them America’s true face of compassion.”

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:

miller.jpg“Today, this groundbreaking legislation sends a message to the world about America’s commitment to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. I just returned from a trip with Speaker Pelosi to India, a country in which almost 2.5 million people are suffering from and living with HIV/AIDS. The U.S. has been a partner in fighting this devastating pandemic and this bill will allow for a continuation and expansion of U.S. support to developing countries like India that are disproportionately devastated by HIV/AIDS and also by TB and malaria.”

From Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo:

tauscher2.jpg“In particular, I am pleased to see a strengthened focus on the needs of women and girls, and prevention and treatment programs targeted towards this population — including, for the first time, the provision of HIV/AIDS testing and counseling services in family planning programs. I would note that concerns have been raised that the bill’s language would block HIV testing and counseling services from being offered by family planning providers that are not compliant with the misguided ‘global gag rule’ policy, and I hope that Congressional intent can be clarified that this is not the case.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • I would like to add something about some forgotten people living outside of the scope of most all support efforts (private and governmental). A Guam-based AIDS Service Organization (GUAHAN Project, http://www.guahanproject.org/index.php) with very limited funds provides HIV prevention and care services to impoverished people who live in the U.S. affiliated Pacific region–American Samoa, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam–which suffers enormous health disparities due in part to limited Federal assistance, and in part due to the post-colonial era per capita income: for example, it is only $2,900 in the Marshall Islands, and $2,300 in the Federated States of Micronesia. For comparison, the U.S. per capita income is $46,000. This organization and the fragile societies of incredibly unique, indigenous people it serves really need support. A small donation to the GUAHAN Project can make a huge difference in stemming the tide of HIV in these small, culturally rich enclaves that could be destroyed by HIV/AIDS.