President Bush Signs Global AIDS Bill
Washington, DC - In a ceremony today at the State Department, President George W. Bush signed the Global HIV/AIDS bill, the $15 billion U.S. Leadership against Global Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). For the most part, H.R. 1298 provides a comprehensive and balanced approach to fighting the AIDS pandemic by supporting a variety of prevention methods, emphasizing care and treatment of infected individuals, funding vaccine research and development, and supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The bill is also sponsored by Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Congressman Jim Leach (R-IA), and Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL).
"I am pleased that the President has signed this truly historic piece of legislation," said Lee, who has worked on both international and domestic HIV/AIDS funding. "We have worked for years to provide help for the millions of people who are in dire need. This is another step in the right direction.”
In spite of the victory, Lee expressed frustration that social conservatives added an amendment to earmark 33% of all HIV/AIDS prevention spending for abstinence-only programs. "This targeted funding is extremely disappointing," said Lee. "As the Ugandan model has shown, we need to be flexible in creating a response to AIDS in every country, and we should leave those decisions to experts in the field." In the House International Relations Committee drafting of the bill, Lee successfully ensured that each aspect of the ABC prevention model (abstinence, be faithful, use condoms) would be equally weighted in terms of United States policy, defeating Republican attempts to prioritize abstinence-only programs.
Lee also warned that even with the signing of the bill, pressure should continue to be put on President Bush to provide appropriate funding. "We must urge the President and our colleagues on the appropriations committee to fully fund the $3 billion authorization, beginning this year. AIDS will not wait, and neither can we."
Even with these shortcomings, Lee was pleased with the enormous legislative success. "This bill represents a substantial victory in fighting this pandemic,” Lee said. “Now we have to move forward to address the AIDS epidemic that exists here in the United States in the same bold manner.”