Presidential Hopefuls Add Support To Landmark Global AIDS Bill

Obama and McCain Sign On to Popular Legislation, but Vote Still not Scheduled


Washington, DC (June 20, 2008) — In the last few days, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both added their names to the U.S. Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (S. 2731). The presidential candidates, who both verbally committed to supporting the legislation at Town Hall Forums last week, join more than 60 Senate supporters.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on a media conference call on 18 June, “When the United States takes the action that is being suggested, that will generate more specific country commitments [from other donor nations],” he said. “I plead to the leaders, the members of the congress, for the sake of the world, for the sake of the future, expedite the passing of the relevant legislation,” Archbishop Tutu concluded.

In a few weeks, the world’s leaders will meet at the G8 Summit in Japan, and global health issues will be high on the agenda. “If the United States doesn’t send the message that we are willing to contribute our fair share, then other countries won’t either. Now is the time,” said Jennifer Flynn of Health GAP.

Even given the overwhelming bipartisan support, including enough votes to break a filibuster, Senate leadership is still allowing a small number of Senators, led by Senator Coburn (R-OK), to hold the bill up. While pleased by recent statements of support from Reid, McCain and Obama, AIDS and health advocacy groups are hoping that candidates and Senate leadership will do more to get the bill passed before the end of June.

Senate Majority Leader Reid yesterday called for Coburn and Committee Chairs Biden and Lugar to complete negotiations by Tuesday, June 24, so that the bill can be moved to the floor for a vote. But activists are careful to caution that those negotiating should not remove critical parts of the bill. “We are pleased that Sen. Reid is pushing to bring negotiations to a close. But those working to pass the bill should not weaken it over the course of the negotiations – too many lives are at stake,” said Asia Russell of Health GAP.

“It is Obama’s and McCain’s responsibility as leaders of their respective parties to get this lifesaving bill passed along with Senators Reid and McConnell,” said Joanne Carter, incoming Executive Director of RESULTS, a national grassroots advocacy group. “It may not be their fault, but it is their job,” she said.

Health care professionals all around the world know, first hand, the importance of this legislation. “Every day there are approximately 6,800 new HIV infections and thousands more contract tuberculosis and malaria. We need our presidential hopefuls to do all they can to move this bill forward,” said Pat Daoust, MSN, RN of Physicians for Human Rights. Advocacy groups pointed out that the AIDS bill also expands support for important new programming to increase the number of healthcare workers and fight tuberculosis and malaria. Activists also plan to work to support the integration of family planning and HIV services in U.S. AIDS programs — something that is missing from the current bill.

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