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Implementers, Advocates, Researchers Call on Congress to Honor Lantos' Commitment to Public Health and Human Rights by Placing Evidence over Ideology
Date:2/26/2008

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, February 27, 2008 the House Foreign Affairs Committee will convene for the first time since the death of Chairman Tom Lantos to take up what Lantos himself referred to as the most important piece of legislation before the committee this year -- reauthorization of the US Global AIDS Act of 2003 (otherwise known as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR).

The draft bill -- originally authored by Lantos -- would provide a minimum of $50 billion over 5 years for global AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria programs and would support building the long-term capacity of health care systems in Africa. The Chairman's bill reflects recommendations on best practices from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Institutes of Medicine (IOM), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC), as well as input from countless individual health experts and program implementers.

The bill also lifts restrictions on prevention programs placed in the original PEPFAR legislation that have been proven by numerous studies to be undermining efforts to slow the spread of new HIV infections. Among other changes, the new bill strikes an earmark requiring that 33 percent of all funding for prevention activities be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs and eliminates a requirement that organizations sign a "pledge" opposing prostitution.

"These changes are critical to preventing the greatest number of new infections possible," said Dr. Joia Mukherjee, a physician and the Medical Director of Partners in Health. "There are roughly 2.5 million new infections each year worldwide, and approximately 7 new infections for every new person put on treatment. A sustainable response to the HIV epidemic clearly requires that we use the most effective strategies possible to stopping the spread of HIV in the first place."

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SOURCE American Jewish World Service
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