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I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, Leader Pelosi, and my colleague Congresswoman Lee for their strong leadership.
Mr. Speaker, as a longtime advocate for a strong government response to the HIV/AIDS public health crisis in my home State of Rhode Island and now as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I rise today to strongly support the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief reauthorization.
This year, we mark the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR, which has always enjoyed broad bipartisan support. First, in 2003, there was bipartisan support for addressing this public health emergency; then, in 2008, in response to some progress, PEPFAR transitioned into a more sustainable program with greater country ownership.
Over the past decade, PEPFAR has significantly expanded access to antiretroviral therapy for those suffering from HIV and AIDS, which has led to a decrease in deaths from this devastating disease all around the world. We have made real progress because of PEPFAR, and we must remain vigilant and build upon this progress.
The fight is not over. According to the World Health Organization, to date, almost 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus, and about 35 million have died of AIDS. It is critical that the United States continue to be a leader in an increasingly international effort to eradicate this disease.
Mr. Speaker, the role of the United States remains critical to combating the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act is a necessary and commonsense piece of legislation. This bill extends vital authority and strengthens oversight of the PEPFAR program. Most importantly, the bill would also extend the expired 33 percent limitation on U.S. contributions to the Global Fund. This cap has proven to be an effective tool for leveraging funding from other donor countries.
Just 30 years ago, we knew almost nothing about HIV and AIDS, and we were not able to treat those who were suffering from this disease. To have made such progress since then is remarkable, and it is a real testament to what we can achieve when we work together in a bipartisan way.
I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' and to continue our efforts toward an AIDS-free generation which, for the first time, may be within our reach.
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