Bush Signs Bill to Triple AIDS Funding, Repeal HIV Travel Ban

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com August 01 2008 12:00 AM ET

President Bush
signed legislation Wednesday that repeals the law barring
HIV-positive visitors and immigrants and triples U.S.
funding to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis
around the world.

The five-year,
$48 billion plan renews a program credited with saving
millions of lives in Africa alone and is widely seen as one
of the major achievements of the Bush presidency.

Bush said the
program, launched by him in 2003, ''is the largest
commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human
history.''

The president
signed the bill in the ornate East Room of the White House,
surrounded by lawmakers and people affected by AIDS whom he
met on his February trip to Africa.

The legislation
is a rare case of relatively easy cooperation between the
Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House. It
passed the House last week by a 303–115 vote
and the Senate earlier in the month by a vote of
80–16.

It renews Bush's
original five-year, $15 billion program called the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which was set to
expire in September.

Some GOP
conservatives questioned the new plan's sharp spending
increase. But most on both sides of the aisle, and in
groups that advocate both health initiatives and
Africa, praised the U.S. aid for boosting America's
reputation abroad.

Bush diverted
from broader remarks to issue a personal appeal to those
stricken with AIDS.

''Don't let shame
keep you from getting tested or treated,'' he said.
''Your life is treasured by the people who love you. ... It
matters to the people of the United States.''

The AIDS
initiative has so far supported care for nearly 7 million
people and helped deliver lifesaving antiretroviral
drugs to about 1.7 million HIV-positive people. With
the AIDS pandemic now affecting 33 million people
worldwide, both Democrats and Republicans have called it one
of the most significant accomplishments of the Bush
presidency.

The program's
five-year renewal comes with some significant changes that
took months to negotiate: one third of prevention funds will
no longer be reserved for abstinence education; a
''conscience clause'' gives religious groups the right
to refuse participation; more focus is placed on women
and girls; and HIV-positive people will find it easier to
get visas into the United States.

Bush said the
goal for the new funding is to prevent 12 million new HIV
infections, treat more than 2 million with antiretroviral
drugs, support care for 12 million people with
AIDS, and train at least 140,000 new health care
workers. (Katharine Euphrat, AP)