- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

The United States is leading in the fight against disease and improving health worldwide, most notably by preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, eliminating malaria and combating tuberculosis. With the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), this administration and the Congress keeps our nation boldly at the forefront of efforts to reduce poverty and enhance the lives of people around the world for years to come.

The Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 sustains the largest international health initiative dedicated to a specific disease - HIV/AIDS - and extends specific funding for malaria and tuberculosis control. Enacted with strong bipartisan support, this law institutionalizes the goals of President Bush’s HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives through the continued commitment of the United States to fight these diseases and save more lives.

The reauthorization increases funding to $48 billion and much of that amount will be administered through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The funding includes $5 billion for malaria and $4 billion for tuberculosis. Central to this commitment is the partnership that anchors the significant work involved. USAID stands alongside other key agencies, host countries and other implementing partners now focused on carrying out the mission in the reauthorization. What is more remarkable than the dollars allocated are the lives saved. In fact, millions of lives have been touched. One part of this impact is through PEPFAR. The United States has supported the purchase and distribution of life-saving antiretroviral medicines to approximately 1.7 million men, women and children throughout the developing world. In PEPFAR’s 15 focus countries, the United States has supported care for 6.6 million people, including more than 2.7 million orphans and vulnerable children. It also has prevented an estimated 194,000 infant infections around the world.

Additionally, more than 25 million people around the world have benefited from the president’s malaria initiative interventions - 17 million alone from indoor residual spraying programs to kill mosquitoes. In Zanzibar, the percentage of children who tested positive for malaria has dropped from 22 percent in 2005 to less than 1 percent. Tuberculosis remains one of humankind’s greatest scourges. Nearly 9 million people become ill with tuberculosis each year and, sadly, nearly 2 million of them die. The United States works to detect and treat tuberculosis in countries where the disease presents the gravest risk. Through USAID, our nation supports tuberculosis programs in 37 countries, and over half of these are a particular priority because those infected have a new high resistance to treatment drugs or have both HIV and tuberculosis.

Together, with the international community, we are making an impact. The global target to successfully treat 85 percent of detected tuberculosis cases has been met or surpassed in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Importantly, we are not only investing in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis today, but we also are focusing on tomorrow by training people to manage, deliver and support the distribution of health services, which will be critical for sustained successes against infectious diseases.

These successes are complemented by additional USAID investments that address the poverty and hardship facing children and their families in many countries. For example, we are investing in micro-credit programs that lift families out of poverty. We are investing in education programs for girls that improve the health and prosperity of coming generations. We are investing in water and sanitation programs that prevent disease. And we are investing in emergency relief and food assistance that save children affected by conflict and disaster.

Improving the health of populations and reducing the spread and impact of diseases are not only important in their own right, but they also result in greater productivity and economic growth, and contribute to peace and political stability. Healthier populations are able to pursue education and employment opportunities, making them better able to contribute to and benefit from economic growth and to participate in community affairs and governance.

The Lantos-Hyde bill sends a loud and clear message that the United States remains committed to combating HIV/AIDS, rolling back malaria, stopping tuberculosis and saving the millions of lives affected by these terrible diseases. With sustained funding, we will accelerate and intensify HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis prevention and control in countries around the globe where these diseases are most prevalent. We will save countless lives by expanding proven approaches and interventions until we reach all who are in need. This is possible because of the bipartisan support from Congress and Mr. Bush.

Henrietta H. Fore is administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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