Senate Passes Bill to Increase Funds To Fight HIV/AIDS Worldwide

On Thursday, September 7, 2007, the Senate voted 81-12 to approve the fiscal year 2008 Foreign Aid Spending Bill (HR 2764 ) that would increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide. The $34 billion measure would increase President Bush’s $4.2 billion request for funds to fight HIV/AIDS globally by $940 million (Taylor, AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/6). The measure would increase the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to $590 million (HR 2764 text , 9/7). In June the House passed companion legislation. Now, the House and Senate will go to committee and begin negotiations over a final version.

The Senate bill would not only increase funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS but would also allow President Bush and future presidents to waive the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief‘s (PEPFAR) abstinence spending requirement. Currently, by law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. By allowing for the possibility of this restriction to be lifted, the door then is opened to family planning programs and programs promoting contraceptives, including condoms, to receive government funding and thus boost the fight against HIV/AIDS. This particular provision would increase efforts in the fight on HIV/AIDS; however, other portions of the bill are not so uplifting.

In addition to increasing funds to fight HIV/AIDS, the spending bill would also allocate $1.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a program meant to encourage economic and political reforms in developing countries. Unfortunately, Bush had originally requested $3 billion for MCC (AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/6). “A reduction of this magnitude is unacceptable and would severely undermine MCC’s efforts to reduce poverty in countries that practice good governance, particularly in Africa, and make it more difficult for the United States to meet its commitment to double aid to Africa by 2010,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement (Pulizzi, Dow Jones/Nasdaq, 9/6). One may wonder what this has to do with fighting HIV/AIDS, but massive bilateral and multilateral debt strains the resources of many developing countries that therefore have very little financially to contribute to the fight of this deadly disease and thus rely heavily if not completely on foreign support. Many within the medical and political realm believe that if Africa can be relieved of 50 percent of its external bilateral debt, it would permit a doubling of spending on HIV/AIDS.

Here at AFJN, a close eye is keeping watch over these proceedings and will do all that it can to be sure that the policies passed by the US government are just and made in the best interest of all parties.

By Barbie Fischer

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