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Putting Health Before Politics: How the United States Senate Can Fix Global HIV/AIDS Funding
Date:7/11/2008

WASHINGTON, July 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a letter to the Senate, forty-five leading human rights and global health organizations urge policymakers to address critical shortfalls in legislation that would reauthorize the President's Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). With the Senate poised to vote on a five-year, $50 billion HIV/AIDS relief package, the organizations call on policymakers to "both set and correct policies based on evidence gathered and lessons learned after five years and nearly $20 billion of U.S. funding" for global AIDS programs since PEPFAR was enacted in 2003.

Many have publicly touted PEPFAR as the Bush Administration's legacy-building success and called for speedy passage through the Senate following the House vote in April. Today, the Administration estimates that nearly two million more people have access to anti-retroviral medication than five years ago due to U.S. government support. However, for every two people put on treatment five are newly infected with HIV -- hardly a far-sighted approach to public health programming.

The failure to stem the tide of new infections is due in part to restrictions contained in the original PEPFAR legislation. Much has been learned since PEPFAR was enacted. Yet rather than heeding the evidence collected by our own government agencies, the bill now before the Senate continues to compromise sound public health practice for ideology and political expediency.

Under pressure to act quickly to reauthorize PEPFAR, Congress is poised to pass a bill that will lock these restrictions into law for five more years. Doing so threatens scarce public resources, leaves more lives at risk, and impedes the development of a comprehensive approach that would make a difference in the lives of millions. The following changes must be made to the bill before final passage:

Abolish arbitrary funding guidelines. In a 2007 report, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended removing the curre
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SOURCE American Jewish World Service
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