The Senate passed the global AIDS initiative in the early morning hours of May 15, just three months after President Bush proposed the $15 billion initiative in his state of the union address. It focuses support for prevention and treatment on 14 African and Caribbean nations hardest hit by the epidemic.
The bill largely follows that adopted 10 days earlier by the House. The Senate beat back attempts to strike amendments by House conservatives that require a third of prevention funds be directed toward abstinence programs. But it did add an amendment expanding debt relief for the affected nations.
Recommendations are that 55% of expenditures go to treatment. This is the first major funding for treatment in many of those nations. Another 20% should go toward prevention, 15% to care for those who are dying, and 10% for orphans.
The two chambers are likely to quickly resolve any difference between the two bills and it will hit the President's desk soon.
Ernest Hopkins welcomed passage and the 'thoughtful dialog,' on AIDS that took place on the floor of the Senate during the debate. He represents the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in Washington.
'Millions will live who would otherwise die if not for this action,' said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said that in retaining the abstinence language, 'Congressional Republican leaders have shown once again that they are more interested in pandering to anti-family planning extremists than providing real solutions to a real crisis ... and women will pay the price.'
The Global AIDS Alliance called the measure 'a cruel joke' because it merely authorizes spending the money, it does not actually appropriate it. 'Sadly, the President and top Congressional leaders ... have little intention of actually providing this level of funding,' said executive director Paul Zeitz.