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Senator Vitter Threatens Crucial AIDS Bill

WASHINGTON, July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Millions of lives are at stake today as the Senate prepares to vote on crucial global AIDS, TB and malaria legislation (S. 2731). The debate on the Senate floor is expected to begin this afternoon, and this is the last chance for the bill to be approved this year.

President Bush has publicly called for the passage of the bill, and it enjoys broad support, including from Senators McCain and Obama and from the Catholic Church and other religious groups. But, several Republican Senators are proposing poison-pill amendments that would subvert the bill's intent or even lead to the bill's defeat.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) plans to use a technicality that would kill the legislation unless it is overcome by 60 votes. He plans to raise a budget point of order, which arises from a provision in the bill which would end a prohibition on HIV-positive persons from permanently entering the U.S. or obtaining legal permanent residency.

Ending the prohibition has a modest cost not covered by the budget resolution, but the bill includes an offset that will balance out any anticipated costs.

"Senator Vitter wants to keep in place a restriction that is antiquated, draconian and discriminatory," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "Will the Senate opt to maintain this cruel and inhumane restriction? Let's hope not."

Senator Sessions (R-AL) has also indicated his opposition to ending the travel restriction.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups today urged that the prohibition be ended, stating that "the underlying law is outdated, no longer serves any important public health interest, and undermines United States global leadership in the fight against AIDS."

"I cannot imagine the President's own party would stop this bill from passing, but we have been surprised in the past," said Majority Leader Harry Reid last Friday.

"We commend Senator Reid for his determination to see that the full Senate get to debate and vote on this crucial legislation," said Dr. Zeitz. "In fact, were it not for Senator Reid's tenacity this bill would already have been defeated.

"13,000 people are killed by AIDS, TB and malaria each day, so further delay is simply not an option," said Zeitz. While not perfect, the bill represents a crucial investment in US global humanitarian leadership."

SOURCE Global AIDS Alliance
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