|“What too of the tragedy of AIDS and its devastating consequences in Africa? Humanity cannot close its eyes in the face of so appalling a tragedy!” Pope John Paul II, Message for Lent 2004|
The Issue: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases continue to devastate families and communities in the poorest countries throughout the world, especially in Africa. The Bush Administration’s Global AIDS Initiative, for which Congress has provided $2.4 billion in 2004, is an important step towards stemming global health crises. However, given the massive scale of the pandemic, and projections of the future impact of the disease, the U.S. must continue to expand its response.
|Did You Know?
Today there are 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the world. Of this total, an estimated 26.6 million live in Africa, 3.2 million of them children.
Of the 40 million living with HIV/AIDS, 6 million in the developing world urgently need antiretroviral therapy and fewer than 8% are receiving it.
1 million deaths occur from malaria each year—90% of these are in Africa.
About 8 million tuberculosis cases occur each year—3 million in Southeast Asia and 2 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
Among young people aged 15-24, women are 2 ½ times as likely to be HIV-infected as their male counterparts.
By the year 2010, there will be an estimated 25 million children left orphan because of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
Source: UNAIDS, Roll-Back Malaria, Stop TB
Background: The impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, felt most deeply in the poorest countries, is leaving in its wake families and communities largely comprised of young orphans and the elderly. In countries such as Botswana and Swaziland where nearly 39% of the adult populations are infected with HIV/AIDS, fewer and fewer adults live to teach children basic life skills, to harvest crops and provide food, to deliver health care and other social services, to sustain the local and national economies and to keep communities secure. Inadequate nutrition further exacerbates the problem of HIV/AIDS by leaving people more susceptible to illness.
Women and children are particularly vulnerable to AIDS and other infectious diseases. Many societies limit the economic and social rights of women, and thus, they may lack the autonomy to refuse sex, even with an infected partner. Young children, especially girls, are also acutely vulnerable to infectious disease. Many children are born HIV positive, lack the nourishment needed to more readily fight off diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, or are victims of sexual exploitation and violence. Many young children are either orphaned or left to the care of aging and impoverished grandparents.
Experts predict that in 2010, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, India and China will have a combined population of 50 to 75 million infected with HIV/AIDS. Combined these countries make up 40% of the world’s population and a combined gross national product (GNP) of more than $15 trillion. The enormity of the pandemic poses a great threat to global economic and political stability and in turn our national security.
While enhanced nutrition and treatment for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases can enable people to live much healthier, more dignified and longer lives, many in Africa and elsewhere continue to go hungry, and scandalously few people have access to life-saving drugs. In Africa, of the 26.6 million infected with HIV/AIDS, only 100,000, or less than 1%, are currently receiving treatment. The Vatican has long urged governments and drug companies to work together with international organizations to ensure that people in the poorest countries have greater access to cheaper, life-saving drugs.
The U.S. Response
- In January 2003, the Bush Administration promised that the U.S. would provide a total of $15 billion in funding to fight global health crises from 2004 to 2008.
- In May 2003, Congress passed the Global AIDS Act, which authorized $3 billion each year to fight global health crises and included provisions for a more effective and morally appropriate global health program. The USCCB and CRS successfully advocated for the inclusion of important provisions in this law, including: increased debt relief for poor countries; an emphasis on abstinence and fidelity within marriage as part of prevention education; and the conscience clause, which ensures that religious organizations, like Catholic Relief Services, will not be discriminated against in the allocation of aid funds on the basis of moral convictions.
- In January 2004, Congress approved $2.4 billion to fight HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases in 2004. Although this is an increase from 2003, it falls $600 million short of what was authorized, and will require even greater increases this year and in the future to meet the Administration’s commitment of $15 billion in total funding by 2008.
Experts estimate that in 2005 alone, meeting the global need to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria will cost $15 billion. President Bush announced, and Congress approved, a U.S. commitment to contribute $15 billion to fight HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases in fiscal years 2004-2008. Congress provided $2.4 billion for 2004, and President Bush has requested $2.8 billion for 2005.
USCCB/CRS Position: We worked for and commend Congress and the President for providing a significant increase in the U.S. contribution to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in 2004. However, in order to help meet the Administration’s commitment, we urge Congress to:
- provide $3.6 billion in FY 2005 for morally responsible programs to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, with particular attention to Africa.
- seek additional resources for the Title II Food for Peace program to provide better nutrition for HIV/AIDS patients.
- continue to protect those existing provisions of law, including the conscience clause, which reflect a more responsibly designed global health strategy.