WASHINGTON – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), a House leader on AIDS related issues, sent the attached letter to President Bush in response to press reports that the Administration is planning on requesting Fiscal Year 2005 AIDS funding at levels below those he trumpeted beginning with the 2003 State of the Union Address:
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Thank for you efforts over the past year to raise the profile of the global AIDS pandemic. With over 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and with nearly 25 million people who have already died, we appreciate your work, and the work of Secretary Tommy Thompson and Secretary Colin Powell, to address this horrible disease.
We write to you today in advance of the announcement of your Fiscal Year 2005 Budget request to Congress to urge you in the strongest possible terms to request at least $3 billion to fight Global HIV/AIDS in the coming year.
As you well know, last year, following the announcement of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in your State of the Union Address in January, Congress quickly moved to enact H.R. 1298, The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. Authorizing $15 billion over 5 years, $3 billion per year, this landmark, comprehensive piece of legislation finally incorporates anti-retroviral drug therapy into our international HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs for the very first time.
Yet despite the ongoing devastation caused by the global AIDS pandemic, and the growing bi-partisan support within Congress for more funding, we were extremely disappointed that you did not request the full amount of funding authorized for this important international initiative. Although we were grateful that in the end our colleagues in Congress approved $2.4 billion for global AIDS, TB, and malaria, this figure is still short of the $3 billion that we initially authorized and which you approved in May.
We raise this point with you because we believe very strongly that the $600 million that was not appropriated could have made a substantial impact in the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals who either would not have been infected with HIV/AIDS, or who could have received access to anti-retroviral therapy to prevent their deaths.
We remind you as well that, since the announcement of the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, over 3 million individuals have died of HIV/AIDS, and another 5 million have become infected, while not a single dollar in new spending has reached those who are most in need.
Concerns have been raised about the absorptive capacity to spend the new money that has been promised. While we are cognizant of the difficulties in rapidly scaling up our global AIDS programs, we are firmly convinced that there are enough organizations in place that can effectively use the additional funds.
For instance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has made gigantic strides in the two years since it became operational, and at the end of next year will begin to re-authorize and extend some of its initial two-year grants. At the same time, the World Health Organization has re-committed itself to the ‘3 by 5’ AIDS initiative to provide anti-retroviral drug therapy to 3 million people by 2005 through increased capacity building and streamlined treatment protocols.
But despite the promise of these organizations and the hundreds of non-governmental organizations that we know are now moving to scale up their own AIDS initiatives in anticipation of greater funding, we have seen press reports that for fiscal year 2005, you may only request $2.7 billion, not the full $3 billion that has been authorized.
We strenuously urge you to reconsider requesting anything short of $3 billion in your FY’05 budget submission to Congress. Indeed we fully believe, based on current need justifications being put forth by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the Global Fund, the gravity of the global AIDS pandemic demands that we provide a much larger increase in our global AIDS budget for the coming year.
Mr. President, we must be frank. Any delay that hinders our ability to respond to this global pandemic will only make our task in the years ahead more difficult. The cost to the international reputation of the United States for failing to live up to our promises on this issue will be far greater in the long run than any cost to the Treasury.
AIDS is killing and infecting millions of people, now. And we must respond, now. We urge you to request Congress to provide at the very least $3 billion in FY’05 so that we can provide that response, now.
Thank you for your commitment to this incredibly important issue. We look forward to your timely response.
Steny H. Hoyer Barbara Lee
House Democratic Whip Member of Congress