By Michael Baggot
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The House of Representatives is today considering revised legislation regarding global AIDS relief. H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, lacks the provisions found in an early February version of the act that would have funded abortion providers. Congressman Rep. Chris Smith explained that H.R. 5501 was “aptly named for two of the giants” of Congress “who shepherded President George W. Bush’s PEPFAR initiative through the Congress in 2003.”
“On the prevention side, the legislation requires that the Global AIDS Coordinator provide balanced funding for sexual transmission prevention including abstinence, delay of sexual debut, monogamy, fidelity and partner reduction,” explained Rep. Smith in his statement to the House about today’s “PEPFAR Consensus.”
“If less than 50% of sexual transmission prevention monies are spent on the Abstinence and the Be faithful parts of the ABC model, the Coordinator must provide a written justification.”
“No generalized HIV epidemic has ever been rolled back by a prevention strategy primarily based on condoms. Instead, the few successes in turning around generalized HIV epidemics, such as Uganda, were achieved not through condoms but by getting people to change their sexual behavior.”
“Researchers increasingly agree that curbing behavior is key to slowing the spread of AIDS in Africa,” noted Smith.
“In a July report, southern African AIDS experts and officials listed ‘reducing multiple and concurrent partnerships’ as their first priority for preventing the spread of HIV in a region where nearly 15 million people are estimated to carry the virus – 38 percent of the world’s total.”
Smith also addressed objections against revisions to the AIDs relief bill that restored provisions requiring groups receiving government funds to pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking.
“Let me be clear on an important point because there has been some confusion in the press (but not in the implementation of the law) as to whether or not prostitutes and other victims can receive treatment, palliative care, and commodities including test kits and condoms. And the answer is absolutely yes.”
Smith also noted the protection the revised AIDS relief program will afford faith-based organizations, “The conscience clause in HR 5501 restates, improves, and expands conscience protection in a way that ensures that organizations like Catholic Relief Services, which has a remarkable record of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, are not discriminated against or in any way precluded from receiving public funds.”
Smith was a staunch opponent of early February changes Rep. Tom Lantos’s proposed for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Lantos insisted that the PEPFAR prescribe reproductive health and family planning programs that would have encouraged activity from abortion groups.
The State Department quickly announced that President George W. Bush opposed Lantos’s “draft in its current form.”
“We are deeply concerned that the draft repeatedly invokes ‘reproductive health’ and ‘family planning,’ and requires linkages, referrals on reporting training, support, and direct funding for these activities,” the State Department stated.
“Prior drafts of the legislation would have given billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to hundreds of the most pro-abortion organizations who are today seeking to overturn the sovereign pro-life laws of numerous African countries,” explained Smith.
Lantos’s proposal also removed priority funding for the highly effective abstinence and fidelity programs that had proven so helpful in Africa.
“Abstinence education, which has proven effective in target countries in reducing HIV/AIDS, would be removed. Providers of HIV/AIDS preventive services would be required to refer for family planning services, which may include abortion, thus cutting faith-based groups from participation. This would force American taxpayers to fund groups that commit abortions overseas,” explained Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America.
Before the early February version of the AIDS relief program was approved, the Foreign Affairs Committee called for a bipartisan revision of the legislation. The revised legislation removed the controversial mentions of reproductive health and family planning.
The revised AIDS relief program “does not create new family planning programs to fund international abortion groups,” explained Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
See previous LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Pro-Family Forces Achieve Compromise to Allow Continuation of Abstinence Education in Massive US AIDS Program
Tanzanian President: Bush’s AIDS Program with Abstinence Provision is Saving Lives
New Emergency AIDS Relief Plan Would Fund Abortion and Prostitution Groups
U.S. HIV/AIDS Funds Going to Forced Abortion Groups in China Via Swiss Global Fund
Bush Doubles AIDS Relief Funding While Congress Introduces Bill to Cut Modest Abstinence Requirements
Read Rep. Smith’s House Floor statement: