PEPFAR Editorial Packet: Time Running Out on AIDS, TB and Malaria Bill
July 2008 — While great strides have been made against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria over the last five years, more than 5 million people continue to perish from these diseases annually. The Lantos-Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 sets bold targets and authorizes America's share of the resources needed to turn back these infectious killers.
But the bill is currently blocked by a few senators who are thwarting the will of a bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate. It was hoped that President Bush would attend the G8 Summit with the Lantos-Hyde bill approved by the Senate, enabling him to leverage similar commitments on global health from other leaders attending the summit. But that opportunity has been squandered as the Senate adjourned for July 4 recess without passing the bill.
There is still time to do the right thing, but if the legislation is not passed before the August recess, observers fear the bill will fail to be enacted this year, jeopardizing the work of successful programs all over the world that are saving and protecting the lives of millions.
Funding authorized in the bill is based on maintaining and expanding current levels of treatment and prevention. While tremendous progress has been made in placing AIDS patients on anti-retroviral therapy (ART), about two-thirds of those who need treatment still lack access. The funding also includes U.S. support to stop tuberculosis, the biggest killer of people with HIV/AIDS and a disease that could easily spiral out of control unless we prevent the further emergence of drug-resistant TB. Rolled into this package also is funding for fighting malaria, building on the commitments previously made in the President's Malaria Initiative.
Providing this life-saving treatment is an investment in our collective future. Money spent reining in these diseases will help poorer nations become more productive (healthy people work; sick people can't). It will prevent millions more children from becoming orphaned, and it will help prevent countries from descending into social and economic instability and turmoil.
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is also changing the way America is viewed in the world, improving our standing among other countries and restoring our reputation as a just and caring nation.
But perhaps the best thing about the Lantos-Hyde bill is that it restores hope for millions around the world who lack access to treatment for these deadly scourges. We must not allow the obstinacy of a few individuals to destroy that hope.
A Word from the President
And one of the beautiful things about this initiative is that we're saving babies. To date, PEPFAR has allowed nearly 200,000 African babies to be born HIV-free. . . .
It's been amazing to watch this experience; people who report back to Mark and myself talk about what's called the "Lazarus effect" - where communities were once given up for dead have now found new life and new hope.
We had a fantastic trip to Africa; Laura and I went. And the outpouring of love for the American citizens is great. I mean, it is such an honor to represent our country, and to see the hard work of the American citizens and the generosity of the American citizens paying off in the smiling faces that line the road. . . .
The United States Senate must follow the lead of the United States House and reauthorize this vital program.
— President Bush, June 26, 2008
Continuing Global Health Progress
The Lantos-Hyde U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 would:
Goals of the legislation include:
Timeline on Lantos-Hyde Bill
April 2: Bill passes in House 308-116.
April 15: Bill clears Senate Foreign Relations Committee 18-3.
June 27: Senate adjourns for July 4 recess without bringing bill to floor for a vote.
July 7-9: President Bush attends G8 Summit.
July 8: Senate returns from July 4 recess.
August 8 (or earlier): Senate adjourns for month-long recess. Observers see this as final deadline to pass bill this year.
Commentary from around the Nation
Treat AIDS patients. Care for AIDS orphans. Battle malaria. Overcome drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. Train tens of thousands of health care workers. By any decent definition, this is good work, the stuff of the beatitudes. It's expensive — $50 billion over the next five years. It's worth it.
— Anchorage Daily News (June 27, 2008)
AIDS is one of the most destructive pandemics in human history, having claimed almost 30 million lives since 1981. In 2005 alone, it took an estimated 3 million lives. . . . It will be irresponsible if PEPFAR isn't reauthorized, and successful life-saving health programs and treatments are disrupted, before the current legislation expires.
— Contra Costa (Calif.) Times (June 26, 2008)
A handful of Republican senators is blocking action on a bill that would greatly increase American funding to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world. If their delaying tactics succeed, the United States will lose considerable leverage in trying to persuade other advanced nations to contribute substantially more money to fight against global disease at the upcoming meeting of the Group of 8 industrial nations.
— New York Times (June 21, 2008)
More than 1 million HIV-positive people are extending their lives on medication provided by PEPFAR. In sum, it's now possible to imagine a victory the whole world will celebrate. Bring on the weaponry. Take the vote.
— Indianapolis Star (June 26, 2008)
Ultimately, the reason to approve the AIDS bill is because it's the moral thing to do. The suffering this bill could help relieve can't be quantified or translated into figures. It's incalculable. . . . It's hard to comprehend how a few senators can stand in the way.
— Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times (June 26, 2008)