The Obama Administrations' major, high-profile foreign policy initiative in the developing world cannot be 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan. Now it looks like some Democratic members of congress are realizing that.
Yesterday Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee and Committee Chairmen Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Donald Payne and Eliot Engel sent a letter to President Obama urging him to make good on global AIDS promises. They helped pass the reauthorization of global AIDS programs last year. Since the major backers of the Afghanistan policy seem to be those who don't actually support the President's agenda or future electoral goals, it would seem to be in his interest to re-engage on this one: save a lot of lives, make good on his Nobel speech, and keep some key allies happy.
ORIGINAL LETTER is online here.
December 15, 2009
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
As Members of Congress who supported the reauthorization of our global AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs last year we write to encourage you to re-commit boldly to U.S. global leadership in the fight against these three pandemics. Having recently commemorated World AIDS Day, we are concerned about reports that continued rapid roll out of AIDS treatment is endangered in Africa.
A few weeks ago the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that AIDS is the number one killer of women between the ages of 15-49. AIDS remains among the biggest infectious killers the world has ever seen and infectious diseases remain by far the biggest killers of people living in developing countries. It was for these reasons that we joined with you last year to pass the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act. This landmark bill authorized $48 billion over five years to deepen and expand our commitment to the fight against these three diseases.
Despite the bipartisan and bicameral support behind Lantos-Hyde we will fail to meet its promise if the current funding trends continue over the next 3 years. In fiscal year 2009 the U.S. provided $5.628 billion for bilateral AIDS programs and $1 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in addition to NIH research funding. In fiscal year 2010 we will provide $5.828 billion for bilateral AIDS and $1.05 billion for the Global Fund. Without expanded funding beyond these 2-3 percent rate increases, it will be incredibly difficult to substantially expand access to treatment, roll out promising prevention programs, train new health workers, or care for the millions of orphans that the bill requires.
In order to get back on track with the authorization levels in Lantos-Hyde, we urge you to commit $7.5 billion for bilateral AIDS programs and $1.75 billion for the Global Fund in your fiscal year 2011 budget request. In addition, we ask you to include $650 million for bilateral TB programming and $924 million for malaria.
AIDS treatment expansion has been a huge success--with evidence it is saving millions of lives and driving down rates of child and maternal deaths. Yet as the group Doctors Without Borders has recently reported, programs are beginning to stop enrolling new patients when only about a third of those in immediate need of treatment under new WHO guidance have access to it. We urge you to reverse this trend by re-committing the U.S. to do our part toward Universal Access to AIDS treatment and using your global leadership to call on national and donor governments to do the same.
One concrete step toward asserting the continued leadership of the United States would be to offer to host the next replenishment conference of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria next year. Hosting the replenishment conference would send a strong signal to the international community that the United States remains committed to ensuring the long term stability and success of the Global Fund and its partners.
Finally, the new mandate of PEPFAR under Lantos-Hyde was to be bolder and broader--to, among other things, strengthen health systems by training 140,000 new health workers. We believe in this goal and call on you to ensure that these health workers are truly additional, fully-trained health professionals.
We believe that taking these three actions will help ensure the United States continues to provide bold leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the year to come. We thank you for considering our request and we look forward to working together with you and your Administration to reach our shared goals.
Member of Congress
Henry A. Waxman
Committee on Energy & Commerce
Donald M. Payne
Subcommittee on Africa &Global Health
Eliot L. Engel
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
John Conyers, Jr.
Committee on the Judiciary