WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Wednesday passed and sent the White House a $15 billion global AIDS bill.
Passage of the five-year plan aimed at AIDS prevention and treatment in 14 African and Caribbean nations was the outgrowth of a strong bipartisan response to President Bush's urging, in his State of the Union address last January, that the United States take the lead in combatting a disease that has killed 25 million and left some 42 million infected with HIV or living with AIDS.
"Rarely does Congress act with decisiveness for the benefit of so many suffering in the developing world," said House International Relations Com-mittee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., author of the bill with Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.
The House on May 2 passed its bill on a 375-41 vote. The Senate approved the House bill last Friday with one minor change, an amendment recommending more debt forgiveness for poor countries suffering from AIDS. The House on Wednesday approved that Senate change, sending the bill to the president.
The legislation, if fully implemented, is intended to prevent 7 million new infections, provide care for 10 million HIV-infected people and AIDS orphans, and provide anti-retroviral therapy for 2 million.
Congress must still approve actual spending levels in its annual budget appropriations process.
In a victory for conservatives, language was included to ensure that one-third of all funds for prevention programs be used to promote abstinence. Also made clear is that religious groups will not lose funding because they oppose certain preventive methods such as condom distribution.
Writers of the legislation pointed to the successes Uganda has had in bringing down infection rates with its "ABC" program of "Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condom use when appropriate."
The package recommends that 55 percent of direct aid go to treatment programs, 20 percent to prevention, 15 percent to palliative care and 10 percent to children orphaned by the disease. It also would allow, but not require, the administration to contribute up to $1 billion in 2004 to the international Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The bill calls for spending $3 billion a year, but the administration is seeking only $1.7 billion in fiscal 2004, $2 billion if related programs for malaria and tuberculosis are included.
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