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Bush to Sign AIDS Bill Today, but Funding Still Missing

WASHINGTON, July 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today President Bush will sign into law a major new piece of legislation on global AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but Congress is not providing the money to implement it for fiscal year 2009.

"We deeply appreciate the hard work of everyone involved, in the Congress and the White House, which has led to this crucial legislation, yet, in terms of funding, it appears to be more rhetoric than reality," stated Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "Congress should make sure the program is fully funded on day one, since without the money we cannot save more lives. Why is the Congress delaying? We cannot wait until 2010 to get these new programs moving."

"President Bush should also move to immediately implement the bill's provisions, such as by lifting immigration restrictions on people who are HIV positive," said Zeitz. "Thanks to the commitment of Senators Kerry and Smith, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and others, the bill lifts these restrictions, but it is still up to the President to implement the changes necessary."

The bill to be signed tomorrow authorizes $48 billion for global health programs, and it enjoys the backing of both Senators Obama and McCain. Bush's original proposal, for $30 billion, would have kept funding at the current level. Much of the increased funding would go to AIDS programs, with a significant portion dedicated to tuberculosis and malaria programs. But, the bill provides no actual funding on its own, since Congress provides funding on a year by year basis through the separate budget and appropriations process.

For fiscal year 2009, Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) approved a budget for international programs that was smaller that President Bush requested. Then, just two weeks ago, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who lead key appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate, approved funding for AIDS, TB and malaria programs at a level far below that suggested by the bill. The 2009 budget may not be finalized until next February, but Congress is likely to base any decision then what was approved earlier in committee.

The appropriations committees approved only very small increases for TB and malaria for 2009, and they provided nothing specific for health system strengthening. The committees also provided essentially no increase for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, even though it is a crucial means of leveraging more money from non-US donors.

This week the UN released a new report which shows that the countries hardest hit by AIDS are spending more of their own money to combat the problem. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have increased their own domestic, public spending on AIDS by 25% in the last two years. While this increase is very welcome, the UN states there is still a shortfall of $8.1 billion in funding for HIV/AIDS programs.

The UN report also states the world is still facing 7500 new HIV infections each day. Yet, with determined efforts, programs can make a real difference in people's lives. For instance, from 2005 to 2007, the number of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving medication to stop transmission of the virus to their newborns increased significantly, from 14% to 33%. The number of new HIV infections among children dropped by 40,000, from 410,000 to 370,000.

"That means at least 40,000 children have been saved from HIV/AIDS, and it is truly excellent news," stated Zeitz. "The global effort to scale up programs is saving lives and building hope. This is not the time to slow down."

At the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Global AIDS Alliance will be presenting a new campaign to end HIV infection in children. GAA will also host a press conference on ending violence against women and children in Africa. More info on these events can be found here:

Contact: David Bryden, 202-789-0432 x 211

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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