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Washington, D.C. – The Senate passed H.R. 1298, the Global AIDS bill early Friday morning. U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., helped lead the debate and usher it through to final passage as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Global AIDS working group.

The bipartisan bill would establish a $15 billion spending framework to fight the disease around the globe over the next five years. The House has already passed a similar measure and the President is expected to sign the legislation.

Enzi spoke in favor of the bill last night and entered this statement into the Congressional Record.

Senate floor statement
Global AIDS
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi
May 15, 2003

Mr. President, I rise today in support of H.R. 1298, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this bill without amendment.

Why am I speaking on this subject? Why am I so committed to the swift passage of this bipartisan global AIDS bill? No one in my family and none of my close friends has AIDS. Nor have I traveled to Africa to care for people suffering from AIDS, as has our distinguished Majority Leader, Dr. Frist.

Well, I am speaking on this subject for one reason and one reason only: I believe that passing this bill as soon as possible is the right thing to do. We have a responsibility to fulfill -- and an opportunity we cannot squander.

Millions of people are dying needlessly. We have the ability to make an investment that will save millions of lives and give hope and security to millions more. Doing nothing is not an option.

We live in a highly interconnected world. Today, more than ever, creating a more peaceful and secure environment for the people of one region translates into more peace and security for people around the globe. By increasing our commitment to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, we also will be helping our nation and the rest of the international community. The world awaits our response.

As the cries for help from Africa increase, and the world watches to see what we will do, President Bush has challenged the Congress to provide the assistance that would begin to rid the world of this deadly menace.

If we pass this bill, we will provide the people of Africa with hope for a better and more secure future. If we do not, history will not soon forgive -- or forget -- that a nation blessed with all the resources we have at our disposal failed to act when we heard the cries of the people of Africa.

Let me remind my colleagues what the President has challenged us to do. He asked us to send him a bill that would prevent 7 million new infections -- or 60 percent of the projected new infections in the target countries. He asked for a bill that would treat 2 million HIV-infected people in the target countries -- as opposed to fewer than 100,000 today -- using the latest advances in drug therapy. He also asked for a bill that would provide care and comfort for 10 million HIV-infected people and AIDS orphans.

The bill before us today would do all of these things. It represents the first global effort to provide advanced anti-retroviral treatment on such a large scale in the poorest and most afflicted countries. This bill also would make the successful Ugandan model of prevention – in other words, putting abstinence first – the basis of our global prevention strategy.

The bill would require accountability and transparency from both the Global Fund and our bilateral efforts. The recent GAO report on the Global Fund raises some legitimate concerns about how this 16-month-old organization manages its contributions and monitors its projects. The bill before us would mandate careful scrutiny of and accounting for how the Global Fund spends the contributions it receives.

In short, this bill both reflects American values and recognizes that we need the active involvement of all countries in the struggle against AIDS. It also reflects a bipartisan compromise. This bill passed the House 375 to 41, with only one Democrat in opposition.

Now I realize that no one is completely satisfied with this bill. I have colleagues on both sides of the aisle who might prefer to change one section or another to make it a better bill. However, we cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

We don't have time to let the legislative process drag on while people around the world are dying -- waiting for us to act. Time is not on our side -- or theirs!

I know many of my colleagues strongly support the Global Fund. President Bush supports the Global Fund too. In fact, his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, is the fund's new chairman.

The President has pledged to continue our commitment to the Global Fund even as he proposes expanding and targeting our bilateral country-to-country initiatives to fight AIDS. By providing both bilateral and multilateral funding, this bill doesn't pin all of our hopes – or our taxpayers' money – on any one approach to addressing this crisis.

If you support the Global Fund, you know that the Senate's delay would mean a missed opportunity to increase the international commitment to fighting AIDS globally.

The United States is the single largest donor to the Global Fund. As of April 1st, the United States had pledged nearly half of the $3.37 billion in total pledges to the Global Fund. We have already appropriated $650 million to the Global Fund, and we have pledged an additional $1 billion over the next five years.

We are already doing more than our fair share for the Global Fund. What we need to do now is to encourage the rest of the international community to step up to the plate.

President Bush is traveling to France next month for the G-8 Summit. This summit is a meeting of the political leaders of the world's largest economies. When would there be a better time to encourage other countries to increase their own contributions to the Global Fund?

If you are concerned with the future viability of the Global Fund, you also should be concerned about passing this bill now. Our swift action will demonstrate our commitment to seeing this battle through. It will also give the President a great tool with which to leverage additional funding from other nations.

On the other hand, amending this bill will result in a lengthy conference with the House. If we don't get this bill to the President until the summer, we will miss a golden opportunity to encourage more financial support for the Global Fund from the G-8 members. If we don't finish action on this bill until the fall, then the State Department will have lost the time it will need to get ready for the coming year's appropriations for our expanded bilateral AIDS initiatives.

Clearly, these are not artificial timelines. Even less artificial are the timelines that AIDS places on a person's life and a family's future.

In the three months since President Bush announced his emergency plan, nearly 800,000 people have died from AIDS. In those three months, 1.2 million people have been infected with HIV, and more than 175,000 babies have been born with the virus. Every day we spend debating this bill on the Senate floor or in a conference with the House means more lives lost – lives that could have been saved had we acted sooner.

Our Founding Fathers were never more inspirational than when they wrote that our Creator has endowed us with certain unalienable rights – and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Swift passage of this bill will again show the world that these aren't just words on a piece of paper. Swift passage will again show that these words apply to every citizen of every country – not just our own.

In Africa and the Caribbean, the scourge of AIDS is robbing people of their natural rights. We know the thief is a virus. We also know how we can stop this thief from stealing the lives of people – from stealing fathers and mothers from their children. But with this knowledge comes an obligation to use it.

For so long, we could only treat the symptoms of AIDS and provide comfort to the dying. Today, we have the ability to fight back against HIV itself. Today, we have medicines that can effectively halt the evolution of HIV and help people live a normal life. In other words, we have the technology and the know-how to stop AIDS from killing people, destroying families, and destabilizing societies.

By sending this legislation to the President, we will save the lives of millions of people and liberate them from the tyranny of AIDS. And we will demonstrate, once again, that we are a principled nation that leads through actions, not words.

I urge my colleagues to vote for this bipartisan bill and send it without amendment to the President.