U.S. Congressman Mike Pence hailed passage of legislation today that would help confront the global HIV-AIDS pandemic. Pence gave the following speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today in support of H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 which would extend, increase and add funds for what was originally called the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR):
"I rise today in support of H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008.'
"The Bible tells us, to whom much is given, much is expected,' and I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the world in confronting the pandemic of HIV-AIDS.
"The dimensions of this crisis are truly staggering. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has infected more than 60 million people worldwide. It has killed more than 25 million, a number which grows grievously every day by more than 8,500. HIV/AIDS has orphaned some 14 million children. And today, 70 percent of the people in the world with HIV/AIDS reside in Africa. Within that continent there are entire countries where more than one-third of the adult population is infected.
"More startling, if current infection rates continue, new epicenters for the disease are likely to arise out of India, China and Eastern Europe, with numbers that could surpass Africa in a few short years.
"And the threat that this pandemic poses to our security is also real. If not addressed, this plague will continue to undermine the stability of nations throughout the third world, leaving behind collapsing economies and tragedy and desperationa breeding ground for extremist violence.
"This is truly a global crisis and because the United States can render timely assistance, I believe we must.
"Originally titled the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, PEPFAR put the world on notice that America will not ignore despair, desperation and disease. I am proud to have supported the original passage of PEPFAR in 2003, and I am proud to support it today.
"You know, every so often in this place, we have the opportunity to do something for humanity and serve the American people - and this is such a time.
"I thank Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen for their strong leadership. I commend my colleague, Mr. Chris Smith, in particular for his yeoman's work on carefully preserving the delicate balance of this legislation.
"And I'd also like to publicly acknowledge the work of our President, George W. Bush. Mr. President, because of your moral leadership and compassion, Africa will never be the same, and history will record your work.
"This Global AIDS bill seeks to address the crisis, not only by providing medicine and health care to those in need, but also by providing funding resources for evidence-based programs that have been successful in preventing infection. It is imperative, I believe, that we not only send our resources but also that we send them in a manner that is consistent with our values. We cannot send billions of dollars to Africa without sending values-based safeguards and techniques that work to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS by changing behavior.
"Within the current version the Global AIDS bill that the Senate recently passed, these pivotal provisions exist in the form of a requirement to provide balanced funding for prevention activities for sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS,' and to ensure that abstinence and faithfulness programs are implemented and funded in a meaningful and equitable way.' This is enforced by requiring the Global AIDS Coordinator to report to the appropriate Congressional committee if funding for abstinence, delay of sexual debut, monogamy, or fidelity programs drops bellow 50 percent of the total sexual prevention program funding.
"It was essential that we preserve these prevention methods that focus on behavioral change, and that we work with faith-based and non-governmental organizations at the local level, in particular through the ABC Model, which has produced undeniable results.
"Also, it was absolutely critical that we administer this foreign aid under the historic, pro-life guidelines that prevent our foreign aid from going in a direction that's antithetical to the values of millions of Americans. I'm pleased to say that the Lantos-Hyde Global AIDS bill preserves all of these vital pro-family provisions.
"As we tend to the suffering, though, we always have to figure out how we're going to pay for it.
"The federal budget, I believe, is packed with wasteful and bloated programs, which could supply more than enough opportunities to cover the cost of the Lantos/Hyde Global AIDS bill.
"When it comes time to fund this program in the appropriations process, I believe Congress should make the hard choices necessary to ensure that this global health crisis does not become a crisis of debt for our children and grandchildren.
"I believe it is possible to be both responsible to our fiscal constraints while being obedient to our moral calling. The greatest of all human rights is the right to live. America is a nation of great wealth - wealth of resources, but more importantly, a wealth of compassion. The history of the world is filled with telling moments regarding the character of a people. Sometimes we are witness to mankind's great inhumanities. Other times we marvel at the beauty of mankind's selfless acts of compassion, when we rise above politics and raise up those in dire need. Let this be such a day."