House Committee Approves $15 Billion for AIDS

After defeating an amendment that would give abstinence a greater priority over condom usage to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, the House International Relations Committee approved 37-8 a five-year, $15-billion AIDS program, according to the Associated Press. The committee also defeated by 23-21 an amendment that would have “explicitly permitted” funding for faith-based groups, even if they run abstinence-only programs, according to Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. However, lawmakers did reduce the amount of funding that will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in an amount equal to the money provided by the Fund to countries on the State Department’s terrorism list, Kaiser reports.

The House bill increases the amount of funding proposed by president Bush in his State of the Union address in January. Bush had proposed spending only $10 billion in new funding over the next five years, while the House proposal authorizes $15 billion. Other amendments approved by the committee include one that explicitly calls condom use a “priority item,” sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The House committee also approved an amendment recommending that 10 percent of funding go to orphans of AIDS victims, according to Kaiser. There are an estimated 10 million AIDS orphans in Africa alone, according to the New York Times.

The House bill excludes language that would impose the global gag rule on the AIDS funding. The Bush Administration has announced its intention to only give funding to organizations that keep their family planning services entirely separate from their HIV/AIDS programs, including accounting. Family planning and AIDS advocates have criticized this extension of the global gag rule, arguing that integrated family planning and AIDS prevention programs were more effective. In addition, critics argue, separate bookkeeping and facilities are not practical for organizations in impoverished countries. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told the Washington Times that they are “pleased that the House is moving forward on this important legislation,” but added, “we will continue to work in a bipartisan way with the House and Senate to get legislation that reflects what the president outlined.”

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Associated Press 4/3/03; Washington Times 4/3/03, 4/2/03; New York Times 4/2/03; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 4/3/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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