John McConnico/AP
Patients sit outside the Tshupe Hospice for terminally ill AIDS patients in Rustenburg,
South Africa. (AP)

Senate Passes AIDS Relief Bill

July 16, 2008 09:00 PM
by Denis Cummings
After weeks of delay, the Senate voted Wednesday to approve the PEPFAR bill, sending $48 billion of AIDS relief to Africa over the next five years.

30-Second Summary

In 2003, President George W. Bush introduced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), committing $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa. It was very effective in providing treatment to AIDS victims and now the Senate has tripled funding over the next five years.

The $50 billion PEPFAR bill passed through the House in April and had bipartisan support in the Senate, but a group of seven Republican senators blocked a vote on the bill. Though they supported PEPFAR, they objected to the cost and to what the initiatives it would cover.

The main stumbling block was whether the bill should require that 55 percent of the funding go to treatment; the 2003 bill had this clause, but it was not included this time around. There was also controversy about whether the bill committed enough to abstinence-based education and whether it should give funding to an organization that promotes abortion.

The Senate's bill included two significant changes that will still have to be approved by the House. One is that $2 billion of the original $50 billion is to be spent within the U.S. on water and health programs for American Indians. The second lifts a two-decade ban on HIV-positive foreigners entering the country as travelers or immigrants.

“With passage of today's bill we are one step closer to ensuring that this excellent program continues to help those in need,” said Bush. “I encourage the full Congress to move quickly to send me final legislation that I can sign.”

Headline Link: Senate approves PEPFAR bill

Reactions: Bush thanks Senate

Background: The PEPFAR initiatives

Opinion & Analysis: How should PEPFAR money be spent?

Should there be a minimum requirement for treatment funds?
Should abstinence education be used?

Related Topics: HIV immigration ban and funding for American Indians

Reference: PEPFAR


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