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June 26, 2008

Tentative Senate PEPFAR Agreement

On June 25, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that an “agreement in principle” had been reached in the Senate on reauthorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Associated Press (AP) reports (ap.google.com, 6/25).

The article quotes Reid as saying the Senate should be able to vote on the $50 billion, five-year bill “quickly and easily, and it should be done before President Bush goes to the G-8 Summit,” which begins July 7.

Several Republican senators, including Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, have opposed various aspects of the bill, including the removal of a previous stipulation that 55 percent of PEPFAR funds go toward treatment programs.

According to the AP, the new agreement specifies that “more than half” of bilateral AIDS funding would go toward treatment. “I'm encouraged the Bush administration and congressional leaders decided to restore much of this key provision that has been so integral to PEPFAR's success,” said Coburn.

However, the article reports, some AIDS activists say the compromise may limit funding for programs outside treatment, such as those for AIDS orphans. “We will be forced to oppose this bill if it compromises the effectiveness of the AIDS program,” said David Bryden, spokesman for the Global AIDS Alliance.

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