Press Releases

Statement of Senator Feinstein on Bill to Reauthorize President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief

- Bill sets goal of preventing 12 million new HIV infections-

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) entered the following statement into the Congressional Record about the need to support the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008.

The following is a statement Senator Feinstein entered into the Congressional Record:

Mr. President, I rise today to express my strong support for the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008.

I am disappointed that a group of senators chose to block consideration of this bill which was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, on a bipartisan 18 to 3 vote.  I applaud Senator Biden, Senator Lugar, and Senator Reid for all their hard work in working through the objections and bringing the bill to the floor this week. 

We cannot afford to waste any more time in confronting this disease.  Worldwide, 33.2 million people are infected with HIV.  Each day, approximately 12,000 people are newly infected with HIV. 

In 2007, there were 2.5 million new HIV infections around the world. 2.1 million people died of AIDS. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 22.5 million people currently living with HIV – two-thirds of the world’s total – and accounts for 75 percent of all AIDS deaths. 

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 6 percent of the adult population is infected with this disease.  2.1 million men, women, and children died of AIDS in 2005.

Despite these devastating numbers, less than one in five people at risk for infection of HIV have access to basic prevention services, according to UNAIDS.  Studies have shown that two-thirds of new HIV infections could be averted with effective prevention programs.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go to rein in this disease. 

We have made significant progress. 

In 2003, the year Congress authorized the $15 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, only 50,000 people out of a total of 21.6 million people in Africa were receiving antiretroviral treatment for AIDS.

Since that time, in conjunction with the Global Fund:

  • We have provided antiretroviral treatment to 1.99 million people.
  • We have prevented the infection of 150,000 infants who were born to HIV positive mothers.
  • We have provided testing and counseling services to 33.7 million people.

Yet we cannot rest on past success.  For every person we treat with antiretrovirals, another six contract HIV.

This bipartisan piece of legislation builds on the success of the original 2003 legislation. It renews our commitment to save lives and lead the world in the fight against the HIV pandemic.  This legislation will:

  • authorize $50 billion for U.S. bilateral and multilateral programs to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria for fiscal years 2009 through 2013;
  • require the President to develop a new, five year strategy to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria;
  • set a goal of preventing 12 million new infections, supporting treatment for up to 3 million people by 2013, and supporting care for 12 million people living with HIV/AIDS including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children and;
  • Call for the recruitment, training and retention of 140,000 new health workers.  

This bill also makes an important change to our HIV prevention policy.

The 2003 legislation contained language requiring that 33 percent of HIV prevention funds go to abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Many of us expressed deep concern about this provision because it was not based on any scientific evidence. It also prevented the people on the ground from responding to local needs in designing the most effective HIV prevention program. 

The Government Accountability Office and the Institute of Medicine agreed. In 2006, the GAO found that the 33 percent abstinence spending requirement squeezed out available funding for other key HIV prevention programs. 

Congress suspended the earmark for abstinence-until-marriage programs in FY 2008.

And this legislation before us removes the requirement that 33 percent of prevention funds go to abstinence-until-marriage programs.  This is welcome news.

However, this bill does require a country that does not spend at least 50 of prevention funds aimed at the sexual transmission of HIV on abstinence-until-marriage programs to issue a report to Congress. 

While I would have preferred that the bill not contain this reporting requirement, I understand it was included to maintain bipartisan support for the bill.  I will monitor this issue very closely to ensure that the people on the ground continue to have the flexibility they need to do their job.

This bill also wisely repeals the ban on HIV-positive individuals from entering the country. 

Under the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may issue a regulation banning the admission of individuals with a communicable disease that is of “public health concern.”  HIV is listed as one of those diseases.

Congress went even further in 1993 and put a ban on HIV positive individuals from entering the country into statute.

This embarrassing provision has brought shame to the United States and prevented us from even hosting international conferences on AIDS and listening to the success stories of the President’s global HIV/AIDS bill.

By lifting the ban, we would restore America’s honor, and leave the matter to the discretion of the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Where it belongs.

Mr. President, as Mayor of San Francisco during the 1980s, I had firsthand experience with the tragedy of AIDS and its devastating impact

We created the Nation’s first AIDS program in 1981.  In 1988, San Francisco spent $20 million on HIV/AIDS programs alone, more than the Federal Government itself.

Thankfully, times have changed.

We have recognized that HIV/AIDS affects us all.  We have recognized that HIV/AIDS is a global problem and a serious national security concern.  We have recognized that the HIV/AIDS pandemic demands meaningful and sustained United States leadership.

I have been heartened to see Republicans and Democrats come together from all parts of the country over the past few years to fight this disease and support a robust and effective HIV prevention care and treatment package.

By doing so, we have saved lives and given hope to those that had none.  We have shown the people of Sub-Sahara Africa a different side of America, one of care and compassion for our neighbors.

I urge my colleagues to support this important piece of legislation.