Press Statement • December 10, 2014 • for immediate release
Contact: Paul Davis
Health Global Access Project (Health GAP)
Tel. +1 202 817 0129
AIDS Activists Applaud Congressional Increase for U.S. Global AIDS Program
Urge President Obama to finish the job and restore the remainder of PEPFAR cuts made since 2011
[Washington] Global AIDS campaign group Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) applauded the restoration of $300 million for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the omnibus spending bill introduced in the House Tuesday night—funding the White House had proposed to cut from the overall global AIDS budget. The bill fully funds the request advocates made for the Global Fund and restores 50% of the funds cut from PEPFAR since 2011. The group also called on President Obama to include at least an additional $300 million increase in the upcoming FY16 budget proposal—currently being drafted at the White House—and to set a PEPFAR target of treating at least 12 million people by 2016.
“President Obama proposed cuts to global AIDS again this year,” stated Health GAP’s Paul Davis. “But activism and bipartisan support for PEPFAR and the Global Fund carried the day. Now President Obama must fulfill his overdue promise and comply with Congressional requirements to set treatment goals for PEPFAR. The budget the White House is putting together right now must include funds sufficient to commit PEPFAR to getting life-saving treatment to at least 12 million people by 2016.”
Activists note that the increase for FY15 only restores half of the damaging cuts made to PEPFAR since 2011, and that the overall global AIDS budget is on the same level as FY14. The increase for PEPFAR comes from reallocating funds pledged to the multilateral Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that could not be contributed, due to matching requirements in U.S. law as other donors have not yet stepped up to leverage the pledges made by the United States and the UK to the Global Fund.
Support from both House Republicans and Democrats overturned the harmful cuts to global AIDS that President Obama had proposed in his draft budget early this year. Activists marched, held vigils, and lobbied hard for PEPFAR, teaming up with numerous supporters from both houses of congress and leaders from both parties, to overcome opposition and increase PEPFAR funding for the first time in years. Health GAP expressed appreciation for global AIDS champions who took leadership throughout the process, like Representatives Granger (R-Forth Worth), Lowey (D-White Plains) and Lee (D-Oakland), and the dozens of Senators who signed off on several ’Dear Colleague’ letters to appropriators throughout the year, led by Senators Coons (D-DE), Isakson (R-GA), Gillibrand (D-NY) and Coburn (R-OK).
PEPFAR is an unusually popular program in Congress, and was reauthorized for five years in late-2013 by unanimous consent immediately after last year’s government shutdown — at a time when little agreement could be found on other important issues. In the face of strong support from leaders of both parties, the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittees worked to find agreement in a tough fiscal environment to restore cuts to PEPFAR and set the stage for the coming year.
Health GAP also applauds the many grassroots activists who worked tirelessly to urge members of congress to support the increase for PEPFAR. This victory could not have happened without the Student Global AIDS Campaign and many allies who marched, organized phone calling days, held vigils and lobby visits.
On December 2, 2013, during the World AIDS Day commemoration at the White House, President Obama promised to announce new bilateral global HIV treatment targets in accordance with legislative requirements. More than a year later, there are still no targets—in spite of grassroots advocacy, and a bipartisan, bi-cameral letter to the President with over 40 signers from every point on the political spectrum calling for 12 million on antiretroviral treatment by 2016.
“Congress has shown that it can backstop an important program that is delivering on the U.S. goal of achieving an AIDS-free generation,” said Matt Kavanagh from Health GAP. “If he truly wants to end AIDS, the President’s next budget must restore the rest of the cuts he made to PEPFAR, make the maximum contribution to the Global Fund permitted by law, and include the funds necessary for PEPFAR to extend life saving medicine to at least 12 million people living with HIV by 2016.”