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Lawmakers Reach Agreement on $15 Billion Package to Combat AIDS

March 18, 2003

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have agreed on a $15 billion global AIDS package, compromising on how the money will be spent and sidestepping the abortion issue. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to vote Thursday on a similar plan, first outlined in President Bush's State of the Union address.

Crafted by International Relations Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and its top Democrat, Tom Lantos of California, the House plan would approve $3 billion a year over five years for international efforts to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. Fifty-five percent of the money would go to treatment, with most of the rest going for palliative care and prevention. The House decided that up to $1 billion of the funds for budget year 2004 could go the UN's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The fund would receive "such funds as necessary" in the remaining four years. The administration had sought only $1 billion over five years for the Global Fund. The House compromise, addressing concerns about the fund's management, requires periodic monitoring and evaluation of the fund by the congressional General Accounting Office.

The measure also endorses the "ABC" approach to fighting AIDS that has been successful in Uganda. This stresses abstinence, faithfulness, and, when appropriate, the use of condoms.

The negotiators agreed not to apply the "Mexico City policy" that bars U.S. aid to groups that support abortion. The White House had earlier expressed support for including the anti-abortion language in the bill.

Mark Issac, vice president of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said the legislation "could truly be a turning point in the world's efforts to stop the deadly AIDS pandemic."

The legislation could reach the House floor sometime in April, aides said.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
03.17.03; Jim Abrams

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