Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Funding for International HIV/AIDS Programs

Mr. President, I want to speak briefly about the funding to combat HIV/AIDS in the fiscal year 2018 Department of State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which was reported unanimously by the Senate Appropriations Committee on September 7th.

In May, the Congress received the President’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, which included a $1 billion cut to international HIV/AIDS programs.  The White House proposed to focus the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – the PEPFAR program – in 12 priority countries, while only maintaining current treatment levels in the other 24 countries in which PEPFAR works.  This would mean no lifesaving drugs for new patients in any of those 24 countries, and the end of initiatives PEPFAR has undertaken to accelerate progress in those countries.

Fortunately, the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Graham and of which I am ranking member, rejected the President’s proposed cut and restored HIV/AIDS funding to the current level. The Committee-reported bill includes a total of $6 billion for HIV/AIDS programs, including $4.32 billion for PEPFAR; $1.35 billion for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria; and $330 million for HIV/AIDS programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.  

The Committee report accompanying the bill also reaffirms the key role PEPFAR plays in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment around the globe.  In 2016, PEPFAR supported more than 11 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment and provided testing and counseling for more than 74 million people.

During the Committee markup of the Department of State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, I offered an amendment that would have increased PEPFAR by $500 million.  Funding for PEPFAR has been stagnant for several years, and the additional funds in my amendment would have enabled millions more people infected with the AIDS virus to receive life-saving treatment.  Regrettably, my amendment failed on a party-line vote.

Nonetheless, the bill still succeeds in rejecting the Administration’s nonsensical and unacceptable reduction to HIV/AIDS funding.  I want to be sure that all Senators are aware of this critical funding, which has received widespread, bipartisan support for many years. 

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