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Senate Committee Approves HIV/AIDS Bill

On June 13, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved, by voice vote, a measure (S. 2525) to combat the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. S. 2525, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Bill Frist (R-TN), would provide $4.7 billion for HIV/AIDS programs through FY2004. No amendments were offered during the committee’s consideration of the bill.

According to the Joint United Nations (U.N.) Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), an estimated 17.6 million women were infected with HIV/AIDS in 2001. UNAIDS also found that women are four times more vulnerable to infection than men and are becoming infected at increasingly high rates because in many societies, women lack control over sexual encounters and cannot insist on the use of protective measures.

S. 2525 would allocate $2.2 billion in FY2003 and FY2004 for the U.N.’s Global AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria fund and $1.7 billion for bilateral programs operated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The bill would provide $20 million in FY2003 and $24 million in FY2004 for microbicide research. In addition, S. 2525 would provide $15 million in FY2003 and $30 million in FY2004 to assist orphans and other children affected by the disease in foreign countries.

The bill also contains language that specifies that the United States “assist in empowering women socially, economically, and intellectually to prevent coercive practices which contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.” S. 2525 would assist in providing adequate pre-and post-natal care to women with HIV/AIDS to prevent an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS orphans and would assist in providing medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and infant formula for infant feeding.

Under the measure, the President would be required to submit to Congress a report on programs designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission, as well as a report on the USAID’s plan to empower women in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Senate may consider S. 2525 after the August recess. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is expected to consider a domestic health bill (as-yet-unnumbered) that may be added to the global HIV/AIDS bill, adding approximately $500 million to the total funding.

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