Reform Jewish Movement Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Combat Global Aids
Weinstein: We must have a firm, moral commitment not to stand idly by in the face of unspeakable human suffering; we must ensure that our commitment to fighting AIDS around the world is sufficiently funded.
Contact:Alexis Rice or Jacob Fain 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2003 - In a statement issued today, Barbara Weinstein, Legislative Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, applauded the Senate's passage of legislation to address the worsening global AIDS pandemic and called on Congress to do more to win the battle. The complete letter follows:
Early Friday morning, in a major step forward in the fight against Global AIDS, the United States Senate passed H.R. 1298, a landmark bill to fight the Global AIDS pandemic. This bill is the most far-reaching global AIDS legislation ever passed by the U.S. Congress, authorizing the expenditure of $3 billion a year to fight global AIDS, TB and Malaria for the next five years. It also allows as much as a third of these funds to go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.
While the bill is a significant advancement in the fight against AIDS, we are disappointed that the Senate declined the opportunity to address some its most troubling provisions. An amendment offered by Senator Durbin (D-IL) would have ensured that the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund would not be capped below $500 million failed to win the support of a majority of senators. This maintains a provision in the House bill capping U.S. contributions at 33% of the total contribution of all other countries. The result is that even if all other nations in the world contribute $1 billion to the Global Fund in 2004, the U.S. can contribute no more than $330 million. This represents a decrease from last year's contribution of $350 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Fund is an efficient, accountable, and results-oriented multilateral mechanism for responding to these diseases and the U.S. should be doing more to support its work.
Furthermore, the approved bill includes abstinence-only provisions that threaten to undermine the comprehensive prevention approach necessary to combat the AIDS pandemic. It dedicates 33% of all prevention money to abstinence-only programs, regardless of the demonstrated need or appropriateness either in terms of the country, culture, or targeted age group. Regrettably, the Senate did not support Senator Feinstein's (D-CA) attempts to eliminate this requirement.
Notwithstanding these setbacks, we are tremendously heartened by the bipartisan work that resulted in the inclusion in the bill of debt relief for the world's poorest countries, sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Joseph Biden (D-DE). The 14 countries identified by the new Presidential AIDS initiative spent $9.1 billion in 2001 servicing debt - many times more than what is expected to be delivered to them for the fight against AIDS. The debt relief provision will halve the debt service payments of 26 of the world's poorest nations and allow these countries to redirect more of their scarce revenues to increased spending on education, health and the crucial fight against HIV/AIDS. We now call on the President to negotiate further debt relief with our allies, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
As Jews, we know too well the danger and horror of global indifference. Too often, people turn their backs on those in danger or in need. We must have a firm, moral commitment not to stand idly by in the face of unspeakable human suffering; we must ensure that our commitment to fighting AIDS around the world is sufficiently funded. Without full funding of this initiative, we will merely be paying lip service to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .