WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) in a statement today voiced his support for full funding of the United States’ commitment to the global effort to fight HIV/AIDS. He encouraged the House to follow the Senate’s lead in providing full funding in the Fiscal Year 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The following is his statement as prepared for delivery:
“I support the motion offered by Ms. Lowey to accept the Senate’s level of funding for the United States’ contribution in Fiscal Year 2004 to global programs to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“This should not be a difficult motion for members on either side of the aisle to support. It simply calls for the adoption of a funding level for HIV/AIDS programs that was supported in the Senate last week by a vote of 89-1. Furthermore, it does not even reach the authorized level of funding that was signed into law by the President and supported by 375 members of this House in May.
“In fact, the President during his State of the Union Address committed $15 billion in foreign assistance spending over five years to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Congress has since authorized this level through the enactment of HR 1298. Regrettably, the President’s budget did not call for the full $3 billion authorized for FY 2004, and the amount provided in the House version of the FY 2004 Foreign Operations bill falls woefully short of that $3 billion which is necessary to begin making good on our commitment.
“The problem of HIV/AIDS is especially acute on the continent of Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, where 29.4 million people are living with HIV and AIDS. Put another way, while the African continent accounts for only about 10% of the world’s population, more than 70% of the worldwide total of infected people resides there. And there are 11,000 new infections in Africa every day.
“Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and saw first hand the extent of the pandemic, the challenges facing African countries as they attempt to deal with this scourge, and the dire need for economic assistance to implement prevention programs and to provide treatment for those already infected.
“We are at a crucial stage in the global war against HIV/AIDS, with the number of worldwide deaths expected to double from last year’s estimate of just over 5 million to nearly 12 million next year. To those who would argue that we cannot afford the additional funding provided in the Senate bill, I say that even this level is still not enough.
“We have the opportunity to help stop the spread of this HIV/AIDS, to provide comfort and relief to those already suffering its effects, and to give hope to millions around the world who live in despair because of this horrible disease. Our compassion and morality command that we seize that opportunity and live up to the commitment we have made.”