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Dr. Coburn Introduces Bill Prioritizing Treatment in Global AIDS Effort

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), a practicing physician and former co-chair of President Bush's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, today introduced legislation S.3627, the HIV/AIDS Save Lives First Act of 2010, that will ensure our global AIDS efforts prioritize treatment and will combat "baby AIDS" -- the transmission of HIV from mother to infant. Background on the bill is here.

"With the U.S. spending more than $6.7 billion on global AIDS efforts, we are not losing the war on AIDS due to lack of commitment or resources. Instead, we are losing because of misplaced priorities," Dr. Coburn said. "We can eliminate the tragedies of baby AIDS and AIDS orphans and prevent the spread of HIV by focusing on saving lives by expanding access to treatment."

"It costs less than $300 a year to keep someone with HIV healthy and alive, about the same price to cover the airfare to send each of the 25,000 participants to the ongoing AIDS conference in Vienna. If saving lives is truly our priority, we must ask every time we spend a dollar intended for AIDS relief if that dollar would be better spent paying for lifesaving treatment that would keep a mother alive, a family together, or a baby born free of the virus," Dr. Coburn said.

S.3627 The HIV/AIDS Save Lives First Act of 2010 provides these solutions:

1) Prioritizes life-saving treatment

* The bill strengthens the current policy that requires a majority of all funding under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to be spent on life-saving HIV/AIDS treatment by increasing the treatment allocation to 75 percent of all funding. Treatment has been shown to reduce transmission of the disease by 92 percent.

* The bill sets a 5-year target to treat 5 million people for HIV/AIDS by 2013.

2) Saves as many lives as efficiently as possible

* The act limits the treatment allocation for any individual grantee to a total of $500 annually per patient they treat. As recently as 2008, the PEPFAR program spent an unacceptable $1,100 in annual treatment costs per patient. The most commonly prescribed drug regimen costs $64 per year and many organizations are providing care to patients for no more than $250 per year.

3) Reduces overhead and ensures money goes to patients

* The bill restricts administrative overhead to 10 percent of total expenditures of each grantee. This is a requirement for the domestic HIV/AIDS program, the Ryan White CARE Act, which ensures that HIV/AIDS patients are prioritized over bloated administrative budgets.

4) Expedites HIV diagnosis

* The bill sets aside 5% of PEPFAR funding to dramatically ramp up rapid HIV diagnosis to identify people who do not yet know their HIV status in order to get people in to treatment and early reduce their transmission rates through treatment and education.

* The bill sets a 3-year target to conduct 1 billion rapid tests by 2013.

* The bill sets aside 25% of this testing money to help countries implement a policy of universal, opt-out rapid HIV testing.

5) Ends baby AIDS once and for all

* The bill sets a target of eliminating baby AIDS (babies being born infected with HIV or becoming infected during their first year through breastfeeding) in all PEPFAR countries by 2013.

* The bill sets out expectations for how to work towards that target by screening 100% of pregnant women and newborns in PEPFAR countries and providing prophylactic or ARV treatment for all HIV-positive moms or babies.

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