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Public Statements

Tom Lantos And Henry J. Hyse United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, And Malaria Reauthorization Act Of 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, many of us seek a place in this hallowed institution to serve our country and our constituents, to make a difference, to help change the world for the better. Mr. Speaker, today we are given an opportunity to edge ever closer to the accomplishment of these goals.

Today we have an opportunity to positively impact the lives of countless human beings worldwide by recommitting ourselves to fighting and eliminating a great threat to our international security, and that is the global AIDS pandemic.

The bill before us reauthorizes the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003. Before this bill was enacted, known as PEPFAR, only 55,000 people living in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving life-saving treatment, but according to the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, through PEPFAR, the United States now has supported treatment for 1.68 million people in Africa and 1.73 million people worldwide.

Further, the United States has provided prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services for women enduring nearly 12.7 million pregnancies. We have also prevented an estimated 194,000 infant infections. We have supported care for more than 6.6 million people in need, including more than 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. We have supported over 33 million counseling and testing sessions to date for men, women, and children.

These successes are truly remarkable and serve as a testament that all can be accomplished when Members from the House and the Senate on both sides of the aisle work together to find solutions to one of the world's most pressing challenges.

The 2008 reauthorization seeks to consolidate and advance the successes of the past 5 years by providing the funding and the framework to transform this from an emergency program to a sustainable program. It stands as a noble legacy of the late Henry J. Hyde and Tom Lantos who spearheaded this mission of mercy 5 years ago, and I am proud that the bill bears their names.

The stakes for this initiative, Mr. Speaker, are higher than ever. Despite the best efforts of responsible nations to confront the global AIDS pandemic, there are now over 33 million people around the world living with this disease. An estimated 7,000 new infections occur every day. In its wake, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is leaving a trail of poverty, of despondency, of death, which has destabilized societies and undermined the security of entire regions.

Our former House colleague and current ambassador to Tanzania, the Honorable Mark Green, wrote to me highlighting the threat that HIV/AIDS poses to the security of our country. And he said, ``In tearing apart the social fabric and leaving a generation of orphans, the scourge of HIV/AIDS could create a long-term breeding ground for radicalism.''

So it is therefore incumbent upon us, Mr. Speaker, to advance this critical program which not only saves lives and exemplifies the generous humanitarian nature of the American people, but it also helps to preserve our national security.

It is important to note that even in the most remote areas of Kenya or Haiti, for example, people know about the PEPFAR program. They know from where the test kits, the medicines, and other life-saving support is coming. They recognize the leadership and the resources that the United States has provided in an effort to fight this deadly disease, and they are deeply appreciative. This is not just a health program. This is a public diplomacy program as well, and it has greatly enhanced global understanding of the true nature and the essence of the American people at a critical time in our Nation's history. We have led by example, and our success has been measured in human lives saved.

Now, the House has debated and adopted this bill by an overwhelming margin in April of this year. This House text was the product of a bipartisan compromise that preserved the spirit of the 2003 Act while balancing a number of congressional imperatives. Just as in the House, our Senate colleagues sought to produce legislation that would capitalize and expand upon the success of the energy plan while maintaining the bipartisan political consensus that has guided this program from its inception.

After 3 months of negotiations, the amendment before us was approved in the Senate by a margin of 80-16, demonstrating the strong bipartisan commitment of the Senate of their own carefully constructed compromise.

The Senate amendment contains numerous modifications to the text approved by the House in April. It reduces the authorization of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs from $50 billion to $48 billion. It allows for a gradual increase of resources over time rather than authorizing $10 billion for each of the fiscal years 2008 through 2013. It requires more than half of all funding appropriated for bilateral HIV/AIDS assistance be expended for treatment and care. It replaces the hard target for treatment with a sliding scale whereby the treatment target will increase over $3 million in direct proportion to increased appropriations. And further, it authorizes the use of compacts as further vehicles for HIV/AIDS assistance in an effort to promote sustainability.

Mr. Speaker, the Senate amendment preserves and strengthens other critical provisions that were at the heart of the House compromise overwhelmingly adopted in April. For example, it corrects an unintended omission by including care under the conscience clause which allows faith-based organizations to disassociate themselves from any program or activity to which they have a religious or moral objection. Also, it amends the abstinence and fidelity language contained in section 403 by striking behavior change programs including abstinence and fidelity, and inserting activities promoting abstinence and fidelity. This modification provides clarity to the compromise reached in the House last spring.

The Senate amendment also includes two provisions that have raised some concern, including the establishment of a $2 billion emergency plan for Indian safety and health, and the lifting of certain restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The first provision, the Indian Safety and Health title of the Senate amendment initially raised concerns about mandatory spending and unfunded mandates. However, the Congressional Budget Office has verified that the language in question is an authorization and does not have implications for direct spending.

It also bears mentioning that the health programs will be implemented through the Indian Health Service which is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services.

With respect to the second item, Mr. Speaker, lifting the ban is largely symbolic because the authority to waive the restriction already exists and is routinely exercised, albeit on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, an alien with HIV would still be inadmissible under current HHS recommendations on communicable diseases of public health significance, and this would continue to be the case until and unless the regulations are changed. The Senate amendment includes offsets for the estimated additional costs involved with the processing of these new visas.

Throughout this process, Members on both sides of the aisle have been forced to make difficult choices to arrive at a consensus that carefully balances U.S. priorities and the range of congressional concerns. The challenges have been great and at times have seemed insurmountable. But a failure to act now would imperil our ability to provide life-saving support to millions of people in need around the world and will ultimately undermine what is arguably the most successful United States foreign assistance and public diplomacy program today.

We have been given a unique opportunity to help make the world a better place for those who have been victimized by the AIDS pandemic while simultaneously enhancing our own Nation's security.

I urge my colleagues to support the Senate amendment to the Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 so that this bill can be signed by the President without further delay and we can get to work on saving even more lives.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield myself the balance of my time.

I believe that PEPFAR is the most successful example of American foreign assistance since the Marshall Plan. Just as the Marshall Plan protected American lives by helping to stabilize a continent ravaged by war, PEPFAR is protecting American lives today by helping to stabilize a continent ravaged by disease.

More than just express American compassion, PEPFAR also protects American security. Let us give our strong support to H.R. 5501.

In closing, I would like to thank the following staff members of our Foreign Affairs Committee who have dedicated many long hours to ensuring that this bill is signed into law and we can continue U.S. efforts to save lives. For the majority, Dr. Bob King, Peter Yeo, Dr. Pearl Alice Marsh, David Abramowitz and Kristin Wells. On our side, the Republican side, Joan Condon, Mark Gage, Doug Anderson, Sarah Kiko, Sam Stratman, Sheri Rickert, and our fabulous GOP staff director, Dr. Yleem Poblete. Thank you so much.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that our colleagues will see the meritorious nature of this proposal, because the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a significant threat to global health. It's also a leading threat to global stability. We can help fill this void. We can help stabilize the continent. We can help save lives by passing this bill today and sending it to the President's desk. As soon as tomorrow, we can have it on the President's desk and have a bill signed by next week.

We are in a position where we can make a difference, because this virus is killing millions of people in the prime of life. These are parents. These are teachers. These are government officials, public health workers and military officers, people who hold the fabric of life together for their community. We have an opportunity to rise to the challenge, pass this bill and save their lives and save a generation of lives around the world.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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