Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in support of the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has provided life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, care, and prevention for millions of people. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his kind words. It's just that I've been here for such a long time. When I first came to Congress, the mere mention of the word ‘AIDS’ on the floor was something I thought was the most natural thing to do. But some of our colleagues squirmed at it and we've come indeed a long way from that time.
“And so, today is a proud day. It's Democrats and Republicans coming together to extend and reauthorize our efforts to fight the global HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases in the poorest countries around the world.
“Thank you, Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel, for working together to bring this important legislation to the floor today. And thank you, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, for your unwavering leadership on these issues since day one, when you came to the Congress. So many of our colleagues deserve recognition and you acknowledged some of them.
“I will just add that this marks the 10th anniversary of the historic Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act. This legislation has been the foundation of the U.S. initiative to provide sustained, constructive leadership in the global fight against AIDS.
“The original PEPFAR authorizing legislation, followed by the excellent work of the Appropriations Committee over the last decade, has provided life-saving, antiretroviral treatment care and prevention for millions of people, especially focused on the most vulnerable infants and children.
“I have traveled on this AIDS issue for a very long time in our country and abroad, and I've seen firsthand the difference that PEPFAR has made. I've been to clinics where certainly you have, Mr. McDermott, Congresswoman Lee, and others who are here – the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Christensen and now newer members. Mr. Himes, I see there, hopefully going to speak on this and, David, thank you for your leadership.
“But there are so many people. Because what was wonderful about it is we went to places where people were so poor and so desperate – but they were not so desperate that they were not without hope. And PEPFAR gave them hope. Because they said, ‘Originally we wouldn't even want anybody to know that we had AIDS. Why would we even be tested for AIDS? People found out that we had AIDS but why would we come to a clinic? What hope did we have?’
“Well, PEPFAR gave them hope. It gave them a path. And so today we know, and Congresswoman Lee mentioned, some of the figures. Some bear repeating and some others I will mention: treatment for over five million people; antiretroviral drugs for 750,000 pregnant women living with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV averted 230,000 infant HIV infections in 2012 alone; HIV testing and counseling for almost 47 million people; and this year the one millionth baby will be born HIV-free because of the PEPFAR support. That means a child that might have been born HIV-infected.
“The Congresswoman says that Dr. Goosby lives in her district. His parents, and where he was raised was in my district. So we all take great pride in his work.
“Over the years, we have made tremendous progress. First with President Clinton, we increased the bilateral programs to fight HIV/AIDS and we authorized the Global Fund. Then, under the leadership of President Bush – and this has to be a source of great pride to President Bush, an important part of his legacy – we established PEPFAR and provided the necessary funding to ramp up the emergency response to the crisis.
“I might add a ‘thank you’ to Bono for his role that he played in, again, ramping up the resources and making sure the public understood, as did those of us in elective office, and especially in the executive branch – where maybe this was a newer issue to them – that we needed to have the resources to make this happen. Thank you, Bono. Not only did he help us with the loan forgiveness to some of these same countries, but now to the alleviation of poverty, the eradication of disease. That was his. That is part of his agenda and he worked with us to enhance our efforts.
“President Obama has provided leadership as well and has strengthened those efforts and boosted our investments to put us on the brink of an AIDS-free Generation. President Obama also is to be commended for lifting the travel ban on those with HIV, enabling the International AIDS Conference to return to the United States in 2012. I remember as a brand new Member attending the Conference in 1987, where this ban was in existence. It was an embarrassment that scientists could not come here. Or people coming here with HIV/AIDS, from whom we could learn, and there could be scientific collaboration – well, that was not allowed because of the travel ban. But thank you, President Obama, for lifting it so that we could have a truly scientific, truly comprehensive Conference in 2012, in the United States, very proudly.
“Today, the Congress will pass legislation to extend our global AIDS investment. Even in these difficult fiscal times, we know that cutting back is a false economy that costs us more in the future. HIV/AIDS is still adapting and so must we. It's a very resourceful virus. It just keeps mutating and finding ways and we have to be as resourceful or more resourceful in our fight against it.
“Thank you to the authors of the legislation, to the Ranking Member for bringing the bill to the floor, for adopting our policies to meet the continued challenges posed by AIDS, TB, Malaria and deadly diseases around the world. I'm so pleased that we will probably have a unanimous vote on this important bill and that is indeed an honor to be a part of.
“With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”