Thursday, July 24, 2008

Global AIDS Bill passes the House

My pal Steny's statements about the Global AIDS Bill that the House passed today, evidently with some strong support (I haven't looked at the numbers to see what he defines as "strong" yet)from both sides of the aisle.

“Five years ago, the United States made an unprecedented commitment to the people of the world who suffer from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. We pledged $15 billion—and with that funding, we have:

• Provided life-saving drugs to almost 1.5 million people;
• Funded care for over 2 million orphans and vulnerable children; and
• Provided mother-to-child transmission prevention services during more than 6 million pregnancies.

“For millions, HIV/AIDS has been transformed from a death sentence to a manageable condition—and Congress has played a very real role in making that happen. On this issue, our moral obligation and our self-interest speak with one voice. Not only do we have the opportunity to save millions of lives—failing to do so will help proliferate disease and instability, spreading bloodshed across borders.

“Today, with the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act, we raise our commitment to eradicating those diseases to a total of $48 billion. In addition to expanding our prior efforts, this carefully-negotiated legislation will:

• Strengthen HIV-related health care delivery systems and increase health workforce capacities;
• Foster stronger relationships between HIV/AIDS initiatives and other support programs, including those that promote better nutrition and education;
• Allow HIV/AIDS testing and counseling to be provided as part of the U.S. bilateral family planning program; and
• Enhance prevention and treatment programs targeting women and girls.

“This bill also eliminates a requirement that 1/3 of prevention funds be spent on abstinence—a requirement that has proven ineffective. Instead, we have directed the Administration to create a 'balanced' approach, requiring behavioral change programs to receive 50% of the funds devoted to the prevention of sexual transmission of HIV. In the face of the aids pandemic, this bill will show the world, unambiguously, that America accepts its obligation to act.

“Last year alone, 2.5 million people contracted HIV—roughly 6,800 every single day. And last year alone, 2.1 million AIDS victims were added to the rolls of the dead. We are confronting a scourge far too pressing, far too powerful, to be made the object of political inaction. We have rarely faced a greater global challenge. We have rarely needed a greater global solution.

“I want to thank Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her hard work to shape that solution. But most of all, I want to honor Tom Lantos. This bill, in many ways, was the culmination of his career, his lifetime of service. I wish he could be here to see it. But how perfect that Tom’s work, which began in the fight against tyrranny in his homeland, expanded to encompass the whole world, and the world’s struggle against the tyrannies of disease and poverty.

“Chastened by the vast challenge of AIDS—but inspired by Tom’s example, and Henry Hyde’s, as well—we came together across the aisle and joined the struggle with all the force America can muster by passing this bill tonight.”

I am glad to see the abstinence-only crud eliminated. Sometimes I wonder if the religious right throws that demand out there as a way to ensure that those pesky "savages" can be population-controlled afterall.And here is the rest of it.

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