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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004 - Continued

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to speak about an amendment I will be offering that will bring up the level of President Bush's international mother and child prevention of HIV initiative to the level which the President actually requested. Right now, the bill before us falls $60 million short of what the President requested. I believe we need to fix that. We need to get the numbers back up to what President Bush asked this Senate and asked this Congress to provide.

The international mother and child prevention of HIV initiative is truly one of the most cost-effective ways that we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS to children. This initiative very simply allows doctors and nurses to give drugs to pregnant women who are HIV positive, or who have AIDS, to lessen the chance that this disease is then passed on to their unborn babies.

For as little as $3, doctors and nurses can give these mothers the drugs they need to lessen the likelihood that their babies are born HIV positive. In fact, when treated with drugs, we are seeing HIV/AIDS transmission rates from the mother who has AIDS to a child about to be born drop from 30 percent to 5 to 10 percent. It is almost a miracle.

Less than a week ago, I returned from a 10-day trip to southern Africa, along with Majority Leader BILL FRIST and Senators WARNER, ENZI, COLEMAN, and ALEXANDER. We traveled to South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Namibia to assess the HIV/AIDS crisis in each one of these nations. On this trip, we saw firsthand how well these mother-to-child transmission programs are working in these countries and how important they are to saving the lives of these unborn babies.

There are already many programs in place in these countries and in other countries around the world—programs that are working and programs that are saving lives. We heard so many times people saying, Thank you—thank you to the United States, thank you to President Bush—for helping set up these programs and for making these programs work.

The bill in front of us provides additional resources for the continuation of these programs and the creation of more programs. The problem is that it does not go far enough. I simply will be asking in this amendment to fulfill the commitment and the request that President Bush made of this Congress to provide a specific amount which he has asked us to provide.

These programs work. We need to get them fully funded.

On our recent trip, for example, we visited a mother-to-child prevention program run by Catholic AIDS Action in Namibia, a nation with a 22.5-percent HIV rate for pregnant women—the fifth highest in the world. At St. Mary's Hospital in Rehoboth, Namibia, Catholic AIDS Action is doing a very good job in enrolling pregnant women in the Women-To-Infant Program. The program has an excellent success rate and is making a difference. We could see that difference. We heard about it.

We met with and talked with a HIV-positive mother. She told us about how this program had reached out to her. She was so very happy and so very proud that, even though she was HIV positive, she had given birth to a child who was healthy and was not HIV positive. She was so very happy. What a miracle it was. What a great thing it was to see.

We saw so many more examples of this throughout our trip. We saw so many good programs out there. People are already doing so much good work to stop the spread of this disease from mother to child.

There are many more good programs ready to go. We just need to get them funded with all the funds they truly need.

One of the most important things I took away from this trip is that we don't have time to delay in helping these people.
Each day we delay, people die—real people, not statistics, real parents and children and babies. And there are things we can do now to start saving these lives.

Time, as the President of the United States told this Congress, is simply not on our side. We need to move forward and provide the proper levels of assistance. So I will be asking my colleagues to support the amendment I will be offering, an amendment to provide the President of the United States with the level of funding he requested for the mother and child initiative. Doing so will help save countless lives and offer hope to the next generation for a life free from HIV. It is the right thing to do.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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