Lee urges commitment on AIDS funding

The Obama Administration should pledge $6 billion over three years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Rep. Barbara Lee said today.

Lee, D-Oakland, held a teleconference with reporters this morning after having returned to Washington, D.C., last night from the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. She’s the only member of Congress to visit the biennial conference, and said she regretted being able to stay only two days.

Lee is circulating a letter urging President Barack Obama to commit to funding both the Global Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), both of which were created under legislation she co-authored in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

”So far we have probably about 65 members of Congress on board and I’m working to get at least 100 if not more,” she said. “If we don’t provide additional funding for both of these programs, then we could face some potentially dangerous problems in the field.”

Progress has been made under these programs in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases, she said, but failing to fund them now could mean losing that control. Things are potentially dire on the domestic front, too, she said: She praised President Obama’s rollout last week of the nation’s first-ever National AIDS Strategy, but said more funding is needed to eliminate waiting lists for life-saving drugs right here in the United States.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle but we have to do it,” she said. “This really is about quality of life and saving lives.”

Lee said the 2012 AIDS Conference is scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C., the first conference in the U.S. since 1990’s meeting in San Francisco; the 2008 PEPFAR reauthorization included language by Lee to remove an HIV travel and immigration ban and led to Obama’s elimination of that ban last year, clearing the way for the conference’s return. Lee said she’s hoping to host a pre-conference planning session in Oakland.

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.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    TB and malaria can be treated effectively even in countries with minimal medical services. HIV/AIDS is another story. Certainly someone with Dr Lee’s knowledge should be aware of the difference.

  • Elwood

    Is it really necessary to run the lovely portrait of Bobby Lee every time she says something stupid?

    The constant nausea is causing me to lose weight.

  • Publius

    Message to Mother Theresa Lee,

    Stop wasting tax payer dollars flying to Europe trying to solve the worlds problems. Represent your own constituents and tackle the number one problem facing the country; unemployment!

    On second thought your work fixing the economy has made it worse. May be leaving the country on a humanitarian mission saves the tax payers money? $6 billon is a drop in the bucket, compared to what you waste here on a daily basis. So with that I bid thee, Auf Wiedersehen!