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HIV/AIDS Legislation Approved by House

The House on December 11 approved, by voice vote, a bill (H.R. 2069) to authorize increased funding for HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and treatment programs worldwide. Sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), the legislation was considered under suspension of the rules, an expedited floor procedure that limits debate, prohibits amendments, and requires a two-thirds majority to pass.

The Global HIV/AIDS Prevention, Awareness, Education, and Treatment Act would authorize $1.3 billion to address the global HIV/AIDS crisis. Of this amount, $750 million would be authorized for an international HIV/AIDS trust fund, $485 million would be authorized for bilateral assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $50 million would be authorized for a pilot program to provide anti-retroviral therapies to HIV-infected individuals.

As approved by the committee, the bill would have authorized $560 million in bilateral assistance through USAID. However, that figure was reduced to $485 million at the request of USAID, who said it could not spend the full amount.

The measure urges the United States and other developed countries to provide assistance “through HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, monitoring, and related activities, particularly activities focused on women and youth, including mother-to-child transmission prevention strategies.”

The bill also would direct the President to establish an interagency task force on HIV/AIDS to coordinate all federal activities related to the prevention, treatment, and monitoring of HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the legislation would establish a 12-member Global Health Advisory Board to advise the President, the Secretary of State, and the USAID Administrator on the implementation of international health programs.

Rep. Hyde called the HIV/AIDS pandemic “a crisis unparalleled in modern times,” saying, “We must do all that lies in our power to do if we are to meet this threat, first of all, by reaching out now to those most in need. It is not only the most sensible thing to do, it is the right thing to do for our children, our country and for the world.”

Saying that “the events of September 11 have turned the world’s attention appropriately on combating international terrorism,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) added, “However, we cannot forget the global…scourge of HIV and AIDS. It is a national security threat of staggering proportions.”

While praising the measure, Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) said, “I do remain concerned that the bill does not sufficiently stress abstinence. Abstinence programs have shown to be helpful in Uganda and Senegal; and abstinence, of course, is the only approach that actually guarantees that AIDS will not be spread.”

Additionally, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, told Members that his subcommittee intended to provide the authorized funding for USAID through the FY2002 foreign operations bill (H.R. 2506).

However, he cautioned “that the $750 million authorization that is included in this bill for the multilateral assistance is unlikely to be funded in fiscal year 2002.”

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