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July 14, 2008

Delayed PEPFAR Reauthorization Approaches Senate

Senate voting on the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a multibillion dollar AIDS package for Africa, is scheduled for the Senate this week after a tactical delay by some Republicans, the Associated Press/Forbes reports (forbes.com 7/11).

The legislation approves $50 billion for the next five years to treat and prevent AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. The current bill approved $15 billion and expires at the end of September. President George W. Bush’s initiative garnered large and bipartisan support to provide anti-retroviral treatment for nearly 2 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

Last April, the House of Representatives voted to pass the $50 billion package, which the White House has endorsed.

Some non-government advocates were disappointed the bill was not passed before the G8 summit of industrialized nations held in Japan last week, where aid to Africa was a main topic.

“It's sad and outrageous that we have to go to such lengths to maintain American leadership to fight these global health epidemics,” said David Bryden, a spokesman for the Global AIDS Alliance.

A small group of conservative lawmakers had thwarted previous Senate action. The full Senate will vote on 10 amendments, which vary from reducing monetary commitment and repealing biofuel policies, which some financial analysts said contributed to a food crises in Africa, to limiting African funding to be spent strictly on treatment.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expects the legislation to pass.

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