Coburn: Keep global AIDS funding focused on treatment

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You'll notice a new BlogAd -- a group calling for passage of reauthorization of the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The original PEPFAR was passed in 2003, a five-year, $15 billion program targeting treatment and prevention with measurable standards and results. I decided to let it run.

The ad is critical of a "handful of senators" blocking action on the $50 billion PEPFAR reauthorization. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is one of the seven with a hold on the bill, but Coburn has his reasons:

While both the House and Senate reauthorization bills more than triple funding from $15 billion over five years to $50 billion, they irresponsibly simultaneously eliminate the critical priority of funding on treatment that characterizes the current program, and expand the focus and scope of this HIV/AIDS program to an unaccountable menagerie of loosely related development and poverty programs....

The current Senate reauthorization bill:

* Eliminates the requirement for providing life-saving treatment.
* Triples the funding, but only increases the treatment target by 50%.
* Diverts funding from the poorest and neediest countries to richer countries with space exploration and nuclear programs, including Russia, China, and India;
* Expands the scope of the bill from HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and care to include every poverty and development program under the sun, such as: agriculture, schools, legal aid, gender empowerment, lobbying, microfinance, sanitation, and community food aid (as opposed to just critical nutritional support for patients on anti-HIV medications)
* Doubles the U.S. contribution to the U.N. affiliated Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria despite the Fund's drug quality problems, administrative corruption, and ability to bypass U.S. laws and policies on abortion, needle exchange, and prostitution/trafficking.

Senators Coburn, Demint, Burr, Vitter, Chambliss, Bunning and Sessions wrote Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, asking him to protect their rights to object to movement of the House or Senate global AIDS reauthorization bill, which turns the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from a succesful, $15 billion program to care and treat people with AIDS in the poorest countries into a $50 global development slush fund.

Coburn's Save Lives First Act of 2008 (S. 2749) would require at least 55% of global AIDS funding to go to treatment, at least 5% to rapid HIV/AIDS testing, and at least 25% of that 5% must go to countries that screen all patients of publicly-funded facilities for HIV/AIDS, including pregnant women and newborns. The bill also sets a treatment target of 7 million people, a testing target of 1 billion tests, and a target of testing every pregnant woman and newborn in countries receiving AIDS funds.

The findings of the bill note that two doses of nevirapine, an antiretroviral drug that costs $4 per dose, will prevent the transmission of HIV from a pregnant mother to her infant.

America's AIDS funding should go to save lives, not to facilitate the growth of NGOs and government bureaucracies or to fund "missionaries" to evangelize in these countries on behalf of secular western cultural values. If you do click the ad to the petition, please use the message box to urge support for the Save Lives First Act of 2008.

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Mark said:

I generally agree with you and Coburn on this. However, let's make sure we apply these principles neutrally and consistently. For example, let's ALL finally acknowledge the folly of spending almost a trillion dollars (!) on a failed war effort justified in part as an effort to "evangelize" the Middle East with western (i.e. "democratic") political values.

Failed? No, succeeding, now that we've stopped with half-measures.

Mark said:

Fair enough. Actually we're both right. The war effort did fail, but is now beginning to succeed . . . militarily. Politically, not surprisingly, it's still a nightmare.

The truest failure though was the neo-cons' naive view that we could "evangelize" the Arab world with Western-style democracy.

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