Tuesday, October 25, 2005

don't forget this one

For the first time in a long time, I wrote an opinion piece for The Triangle, which was on the subject of my last entry. It will be published Friday, and I hope to post a link to the online version then.

Remember the One Campaign? Around the time of Live 8, I signed their petition and joined their mailing list. Political groups oftentimes send out form letters for congressmen and senators. I sent one of those out once on aid for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Senator Specter has recently replied, and I'd like to reprint his e-mail in its entirety.

Dear Mr. Karstendick :

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria (Global Fund). I appreciate hearing from you.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is nothing short of a global emergency. This hideous disease has claimed the lives of more than 25 million people, including 4 million children, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that 39.4 million additional people are currently living with HIV/AIDS. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell poignantly described AIDS as "more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict or any weapon of mass destruction....AIDS can destroy countries and destabilize entire regions."

The Global Fund represents an innovative approach to foreign aid benefiting those affected by this affliction. The Global Fund, a public-private partnership headquartered in Geneva , Switzerland , was established in January 2002 with the assistance of the United States Government. Grants from the Global Fund can stop AIDS, TB and malaria in their tracks by providing desperately needed treatment, expanding prevention efforts, and supporting public health infrastructure development.

The Global Fund has already approved more than $3.1 billion in grants covering 313 programs in 127 countries. These funds will ensure life-saving treatment is afforded to at least 1.6 million people living with AIDS and will provide voluntary counseling and testing to an additional 52 million people. Programs are already providing treatment and other essential services to thousands of people living with HIV in Ghana , Haiti , Honduras , Rwanda , Thailand , and other countries. However, the Fund will remain viable only through continued financial support from the U.S. and other international donors.

The Global Fund also addresses the greatest killer of those with AIDS - tuberculosis. Treating TB in people with HIV is the best way to extend people's lives from weeks to years. In countries most highly affected by AIDS, 60% of those with TB are HIV positive. TB is an airborne infectious disease and therefore the treatment of TB is critical to protecting public health worldwide.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) and as a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, I have consistently strived to increase U.S. contributions to fight against HIV/AIDS. In May 2005, I joined some of my Senate colleagues in writing to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee urging them, in conjunction with my Labor Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee, to provide a total of $3.7 billion for all international HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs in FY 2006. Of this funding, I urged that $800 million be directed toward the Global Fund. During consideration of the FY 2006 budget, I cosponsored an amendment (S.A. 169), which directed that funding should be appropriated at this level.

In FY 2005 I requested $3.6 billion in funding for global AIDS, including $1.2 billion for the Global Fund, $350 million for all sources for global efforts to control TB, $30 million for UNAIDS and $36 million for the World Health Organization. Ultimately, Congress pledged $2.9 billion for global initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria including $437.8 million for the Global Fund.

I urged the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations to substantially increase the President's budget for Child Survival and Health Programs to accommodate at least a $1 billion contribution to the Global Fund in FY 2004. Additionally, during debate of the FY 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, I supported an amendment ( S.A. 1966) to add $289 million to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide. This amendment passed the Senate bringing the total for HIV/AIDS funding to $2.4 billion, $400 million above the President's request.

On May 16, 2003, the Senate passed the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (H.R. 1298). This bill, which became law on May 27, 2003 , directs the President to establish a comprehensive, integrated, five-year global strategy for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, H.R. 1298 authorizes $15 billion over five years for international AIDS programs. On July 10, 2003, I voted in favor of an amendment ( S.A. 1174) to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2004 (S. 925), which affirms Congress' commitment to providing assistance to combat AIDS globally. This amendment passed 78-18.

With the rapid expansion of HIV/AIDS in heavily populated nations such as India , China and Russia , there is a potential of having 100 million infected people by the end of the decade. The challenge the world faces against HIV/AIDS is daunting, but it is a fight that must be met head on by a united global front. The United States , in an unparalleled health aid initiative, has pledged its firm support to battle this crisis.

Thank you again for contacting me. The concerns of my constituents are of great importance to me, and I rely on you and other Pennsylvanians to inform me of your views. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at http://specter.senate.gov.


Arlen Specter

Now that's how government should be.


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