The AIDS funding bill recently passed by the US House of Representatives will move directly to the Senate floor for debate this week, bypassing a Senate HIV/AIDS bill, which is currently in committee. The House bill (HR 1298) authorizes $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, with an amendment requiring a third of the money to go towards abstinence and monogamy programs. Setting aside a certain percentage of money for abstinence only programs will de-emphasize the importance of condom usage in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. The White House has said it supported language that would “prioritize the abstinence component of the ABC approach,” according to the Associated Press. Senate Democrats have said they will attempt to introduce an alternative AIDS bill that eliminates the language requiring a funding emphasis on abstinence, according to Reuters. In addition, the House version of the bill includes a provision that requires an “analysis of the prevalence of HPV in Sub-Saharan Africa and the impact that condom use has had on the spread of the spread of HPV.” Safe sex advocates worry that this study will spread misinformation and confusion about the links between condom effectiveness and HPV.
The House version of the bill also provides less funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, though it is still higher than Bush’s request for the Fund. At $200 million a year for five years, Bush’s request actually represented a decrease in funding from the $350 million Congress had approved for the fiscal year 2003 budget. The Senate bill introduced in the Foreign Relations Committee last week authorizes as much as $2.2 billion for the Fund over the next two years.
The House bill authorizes $3 billion for global AIDS prevention and treatment programs next year, but in a recent speech President Bush called for no more than $2 billion in spending on AIDS next year, according to Reuters. A recent report by the Global HIV Prevention Working Group recommended that worldwide spending on HIV/AIDS prevention programs should be increased by $3.8 billion by 2005, according to AP. Only $1.9 billion was spent last year on HIV programs, the group reports. “A dramatic scaling-up of HIV prevention, combined with increased access to treatment for the millions already infected, can control and ultimately reverse AIDS,” Dr. Helene Gayle, co-chairwoman of the group, told AP.