Washington, DC - Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on HIV/AIDS, was joined today by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), other Members of Congress and leading debt relief and HIV/AIDS organizations to unveil HR 1567, the Debt Cancellation for HIV/AIDS Response Act of 2001.

The bill calls for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel the multilateral debt of countries that are heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. Countries who are eligible under the HIPC Initiative or have HIV infection rates of 3% or more would be eligible for debt cancellation. The bill also encourages the savings from debt cancellation to be used for establishing and implementing national HIV/AIDS response strategies.

"Many African countries heavily affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis also face rising international debt, which in essence depletes resources to attack the problem," said Lee. "We must draw a clear link between developing an HIV/AIDS response and multilateral debt cancellation. AIDS KILLS AND DEBT KILLS. Together we must KILL DEBT TO KILL AIDS."

Due to the debt crisis in many impoverished countries, substantially more is spent on multilateral debt repayment each year than on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs and other health and educational services. Last year, the United States Congress and the Clinton Administration demonstrated leadership on the issue of debt relief by providing $435 million for bilateral debt cancellation for highly indebted and poor countries.

"This tremendous step in the right direction was launched by a phenomenal community-wide response that included bipartisan
leadership in the US Congress," said Lee. "Today, we are calling for the same coalition to draw the link between the development of an HIV/AIDS response and the cancellation of multilateral debt."

In countries where debt cancellation has already occurred, an average of 2/3 of the debt savings has been assigned to HIV/AIDS and infectious disease control programs.

"This bill represents a component of the AIDS Marshall Plan," said Lee.

H.R. 1567 will join H.R. 3519, the Global AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act, spearheaded by Lee and signed into law last year, and the recently introduced H.R. 1185, the Access to HIV/AIDS Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technologies Act, as one of many other multifaceted solutions to attack the complex HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"We must move multilateral debt cancellation and our response to the HIV/AIDS crisis to the forefront of our international agenda," concluded Lee.

H.R. 1567 is supported by Jubilee USA Network, Drop the Debt, Results, Washington Office on Africa, Episcopal Church-USA, Constituency for Africa, Global AIDS Alliance, and African Services Committee.