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Saperstein: We congratulate the Senate for passing this bill and urge Congress to address the need for evidence-based prevention programs during conference.
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Washington DC, July 17, 2008– In response to the Senate’s passage of S. 2371, the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
The Senate has taken an important step forward in responding to one of the world’s most prolific killers by reauthorizing and significantly expanding the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
After fighting back the misguided attempts of several Senators to weaken the bill, the Senate -- as the House did in April -- passed a bill that would provide nearly $50 billion over the next five years, an increase of almost $20 billion over the last five years. This funding will enable the United States to not only continue supporting organizations on the ground that help prevent new infections, provide treatment to those living with HIV/AIDS, and help those people whose lives are affected indirectly by the disease, but would also make it possible to provide much needed opportunities for expansion as Global AIDS programs transition from an emergency response to a sustained one.
We remain concerned, however, that the Senate failed to address many of the shortcomings of the House legislation. Specifically, the bills implement a "reporting requirement" which mandates that any country spending less than 50% of prevention money on abstinence and behavior change programs justify this decision. In practice this will likely have a chilling effect as organizations may believe that they are forced to choose between much-needed U.S. funding and addressing the realities of the global HIV pandemic through comprehensive programs. Independent studies by both the Government Accountability Office and the National Institute of Medicine have concluded that the most effective programs in decreasing the rate of new infections have been those that adopt a comprehensive, evidence-based strategy.
Jewish text teaches that “he who saves one life it is as though he has saved the universe.” With 22.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone and with full knowledge that for every person treated six new people become infected, we will continue to fight a losing battle against AIDS unless we take prevention seriously.
We congratulate the Senate for passing this bill and urge Congress to address the need for evidence-based prevention programs during conference.