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Saperstein: “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.”
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Washington, April 2, 2008– In response to the overwhelming passage of the Tom Lantos and Henry gJ. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, the long awaited 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:
We applaud today’s House vote reauthorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). By renewing this landmark program, created by President Bush to address the scourge of AIDS, the United States has recommitted itself to bringing an end to one of the world’s largest killers. By increasing the funding from $19 billion over the last five years, to $50 billion over the next five years, the United States will be able to continue to increase its efforts to support organizations on the ground that help prevent new infections, provide treatment to those living with HIV/AIDS, and support those people whose lives are affected indirectly by the disease.
Even as we hail the House’s renewal of this vital legislation, we remain concerned about shortcomings in the bill that favor politics over effective public health efforts. The replacement of the 1/3 abstinence-only education earmark with a "reporting requirement" mandating any country that spends less than 50% of prevention money on abstinence and behavior change programs to justify this decision directly to Congress is likely to have a chilling effect. Health organizations will no doubt still 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 Governmental 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. We call on the Senate to rectify this significant shortcoming when it considers its version of the bill.
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 therefore congratulate the House for passing the Global AIDS bill and urge Senators to remove ideology-driven prevention earmarks and help save our universe.