Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, May 21, 2003

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Floor Statement of

The Honorable Henry J. Hyde

On H.R. 1298,

the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis,

and Malaria Act of 2003

May 21, 2003

Rarely does Congress act with decisiveness for the benefit of so many suffering in the developing world. But this is precisely what we are doing today in enacting H.R. 1298, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS Act of 2003.

With each passing day HIV/AIDS claims more and more innocent victims. Not since the bubonic plague swept across the world in the last millennium has our world confronted such a horrible, unspeakable curse as we are now witnessing with the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic. The number of dead or dying is grotesquely high: 25 million already dead worldwide and the number growing at a rate of 8,500 every day, with the prospects of entire villages populated only by orphans because the adults are dead or dying from AIDS.

The bill we are considering today is the very same bill which passed the House on May 1st by a vote of 375 to 41, with the exception of a minor amendment regarding debt forgiveness in poor countries. The Hyde-Lantos bill authorizes the President’s five-year, $15 billion emergency plan for treatment and prevention of AIDS in those countries already facing crisis.

The legislation creates a more responsive, coordinated and effective approach among the various agencies of the U.S. Government involved in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

During consideration of the Hyde-Lantos measure last week, the Senate added an amendment encouraging the Administration to work with other countries to extend additional debt relief to poor countries most affected by HIV/AIDS.

I support this amendment, and it is my hope that this legislation may be presented for the President's signature prior to his participation in the G-8 Summit in France in June.

The Hyde-Lantos legislation promotes an approach that provides funds for antiretroviral therapy for more than 2 million people living with HIV. It encourages a strategy that extends palliative care to people living with AIDS. It supports efforts to find vaccines for HIV/AIDS and malaria. It emphasizes the need to keep families together, with particular focus on the needs of children and young people with HIV. The bill endorses prevention programs that stress sexual abstinence and monogamy as a first line of defense against the spread of this disease. And it contributes to multilateral initiatives that leverage the funds of other donor nations.

Many organizations and individuals from diverse backgrounds participated in the crafting of this legislation, including members of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters in Wheaton, Illinois; missionaries in Uganda; AIDS treatment access groups in downtown Chicago; and caregivers who administer assistance and counseling to people living with AIDS. The International Relations Committee heard from African ambassadors, church leaders, and citizens from around the world who were calling for action. Your support for this legislation today will answer their call for action. But our work now is only beginning in this fight to save lives and rescue families and villages from this scourge.

Mr. Speaker, today I urge all of my colleagues to support H.R. 1298, the Hyde-Lantos bill. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is more than a humanitarian crisis. Increasingly, it's a threat to the security of the developed world. Left unchecked, this plague will further rip the fabric of developing societies, pushing fragile governments and economies to the point of collapse.

America does not have to take on the HIV/AIDS crisis alone. But as is often the case, American leadership – political or financial – is necessary if our friends around the world are to bear their fair share of the burden. That is what the President’s proposal does: it sets a pattern of American leadership that others, we believe, will follow.

Today, we have an opportunity to do something of significant and lasting importance; an obligation to do something reflecting our commitment to human solidarity; and the privilege of doing something truly compassionate.

The AIDS virus is a mortal challenge to our civilization. I know that today my colleagues will be animated by the compassion and vision that has always defined what it means to be an American and answer this call for help.

Before I close, I want to thank in particular the distinguished gentleman from California, Ranking Democratic Member Tom Lantos. It is absolutely clear that we would not be gathered in this chamber, about to celebrate the passage of such monumental legislation, without the leadership, courage and vision of Tom Lantos. From the start, he has been a leader in the fight against AIDS, tenacious in fighting for the Global Fund and for increased funding for bilateral efforts. Yet, during the past three years we have been working this issue, he has always defended and represented his position with grace and eloquence. I would also like to recognize the essential and excellent contributions made to this legislation by his staff, in particular Peter Yeo and Pearl Alice Marsh. Of course, my own staff, Walker Roberts and Peter Smith, are also to be commended for their fine work and contributions to H.R. 1298.



Source: Committee on International Relations, May 21, 2003