September 10, 2003
The U.S. Senate failed yesterday and today in two opportunities to appropriately increase federal funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. An amendment sponsored by Sen. Richard Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) to increase funding for the internationally focused Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to the amount authorized in late May 2003, was voted down yesterday. An increase in domestic AIDS spending proposed in an amendment introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) failed in the Senate today.
In response, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) today strongly urged the government to correct what IAPAC President/CEO José M. Zuniga called a "glaring failure in moral resolve."
"Though there has been much celebration and promotion over recent legislative victories which have authorized, but not allocated, desperately needed funds in the war against HIV/AIDS, the reality is far more grim.
"Because U.S. President George W. Bush and congressional republicans are skeptical of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malarias ability to use monies efficiently -- despite the organizations positive review by the U.S. General Accounting Office -- and insists that a new bureaucracy must be created to disburse donated dollars, the foreign HIV/AIDS expenditure for fiscal year 2004 is set at around US$2 billion. This is significantly less than the US$3 billion that Congress authorized in May 2003 and for which both political parties have been taking credit. And it is only a US$500 million increase over fiscal year 2003.
"Similarly, U.S. domestic spending for HIV/AIDS care in 2004 reveals a startling lack of concern for the countrys own citizens. An increasing number of U.S. citizens unable to pay for expensive antiretroviral treatment are finding that government assistance is simply not there. Cuts or flat funding in both the House of Representatives and Senate for Ryan White CARE Act programs, with the exception of a negligible percentage increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, means that an increasing, and increasingly poor, number of HIV patients will have reduced access to care and treatment. The result will be needless suffering and death, turning back the clock on many hard earned public health victories in the United States.
"This course of action does not, I believe, reflect the values of the American people or constitute sound policy. I hope that members of Congress take steps to redress their mistake."