U.S. response is one of global leadership

I am writing in response to a letter to the editor concerning the U.S. response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis and my record on this topic. While I praise the spirit of Stephanie Smith’s letter and share in her dedication to this worthy cause, I feel compelled to respond to the charge that the United States’ response to this crisis has been “lukewarm.”

On May 27, President George W. Bush signed the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. This historic bill authorizes $15 billion over five years and triples the U.S. commitment to help turn the tide against the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide.

We are off to a good start in fulfilling this legislation. We appropriated $2.4 billion for the fiscal year 2004, and the president’s budget for fiscal year 2005 raises funding to $2.8 billion. We are on schedule in reaching the president’s goal of $15 billion. I am proud to have co-authored bipartisan amendments in each of my first two years in the U.S. Senate that increased global HIV/AIDS funding by $180 million in fiscal year 2003 and $350 million in fiscal year 2004.

I visited Africa in August and witnessed the devastation of HIV/AIDS firsthand. While the suffering broke my heart, I was also struck by the sense of hope among so many who are engaged in the struggle, and I will continue to be a champion of this issue in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Rather than “lukewarm” as Smith suggested, the U.S. response to global HIV/AIDS is one of leadership. We are overwhelmingly the largest contributor in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, both to the global fund and in bilateral aid.

It is not often that we as a nation can directly reach out and affect the lives of tens of millions of our neighbors around the globe. The United States and the international community must not squander this opportunity. As your senator, I am working to ensure that we rise to the challenge and beat back this horrific plague upon humanity.

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