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Pelosi on Global HIV/AIDS Bill: 'There is a Moral Imperative to Combat This Epidemic'

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act, which provides $50 billion over five years for programs to combat those diseases around the world. Below are the Speaker's remarks:

"I want to commend Chairman Howard Berman -- I think this is the first piece of legislation to come out of the Foreign Affairs Committee under your leadership as chairman -- and Ranking Member Ileana Ros Lehtinen for their leadership in bringing a bipartisan, strong initiative to the floor. This initiative is a continuation of the work President Bush established as a priority in the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

"For those of us who have been involved in these issues over the years, we know that for our country to be healthy, for the eradication of these diseases to take place, we must have a global approach to it. Disease knows no borders and boundaries.

"Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and I just had the opportunity to visit a PEPFAR site in India at the Salvation Army, where they were distributing drugs through an organized regiment related to hygiene, and help people with HIV and AIDS. And we can tell you from firsthand experience -- I have visited these sites in South Africa and in India -- that wherever we go, there is great appreciation for what our country is doing and President Bush's leadership on this subject.

"I'm so pleased that this bill is named for Chairman Tom Lantos, our friend who left us earlier this year, and Congressman Henry Hyde before that, because they were the original authors of the first historic President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief legislation in 2003. That landmark bill authorized $15 billion over five years.

"Working together with the Bush Administration and the Appropriations Committee, we succeeded in providing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to almost 1.5 million people, supporting care for nearly 6.7 million including more than 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children, and supporting prevention of more than 150,000 infant infections. We're talking about AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis.

"Now we must take the next step in fighting AIDS in the poorest countries of the world.

"The legislation before us today will move us from the emergency phase to the sustainability phase in fighting AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. My colleagues have presented the provisions of the bill to you, so I'll just submit mine for the record, and just say in the closing that the Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Act is our compact with developing nations across the globe. It says that America stands with them in this fight, that our commitment will not waver, and shows them America's true face of compassion.

"Since the AIDS epidemic began, 20 million men, women, and children have died from the disease. 20 million. Forty million around the globe are HIV-positive. That's what we know. We don't even know of those who have not come forth to be tested. Each and every day, another 6,000 people become infected with HIV.

"In addition, the number of orphans, vulnerable children with sick parents, and adolescents at risk for HIV continues to grow, with an estimated 19 million needing assistance by 2010. There is a moral imperative to combat this epidemic.

"If we have these drugs distributed in the manner in which they are under PEPFAR, then people will come forward to be tested, then we will have better success with our prevention initiatives. And so it's all related. Care causes people to say that there is a reason to be tested, and knowing the consequences of the disease contributes to the prevention effort.

"Few crises have called out more for sustained, constructive America leadership. This legislation before us makes that commitment. I urge our colleagues to support it, once again. I salute you, Mr. Payne, for your leadership in so many ways that relate to the eradication of disease and the alleviation of poverty and the strength of America related to that and how we are viewed in the world and how that all contributes to a healthier America. If we don't, we will have a fury of despair that springs from a lack of hope in the world that contributes to violence and takes us back to the security of our country.

"So for the security of our country and out of compassion, I urge my colleagues to support this initiative."

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House
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