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July 16, 2008

PEPFAR May Pass With Overwhelming Bipartisan Support

Amendments that would have significantly altered the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) were rejected by a broad, bipartisan majority of Senators on July 15, suggesting that the bill could pass with massive bipartisan support, according to CQ Today/Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report (kaisernetwork.org 7/16). An amendment that would have shrunk the proposed $50 billion aid package to $15 billion was defeated.

“At the time of the authorization, it was clear to everyone that [$15 billion] was not nearly sufficient to deal with what is a worldwide dilemma, a worldwide problem,” said Sen. Joseph Biden (D–Del.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We’ve learned a great deal more since then. We should not, in fact, turn back the clock.”

Senators were expected on July 16 to revisit the HIV travel ban, a provision attached to the PEPFAR bill. Under the provision, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D–Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R–Ore.), HIV would be considered equivalent to other contagious diseases, which medical and public health experts at Health and Human Services—not officials at U.S. embassies—determine eligibility for admission.

“There’s no excuse for a law that stigmatizes a particular disease,” Kerry said. It is “time to move beyond an antiquated, knee-jerk reaction” to people living with HIV/AIDS.


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