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House, Senate Lawmakers Introduce Legislation To Extend PEPFAR

“Senior U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday to extend … a successful and popular program to combat AIDS worldwide launched 10 years ago by former President George W. Bush,” Reuters reports. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced the legislation in the Senate, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, presented a companion bill in the House, the news agency notes (Zengerle, 9/25). According to a press release from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), an original PEPFAR co-author who joined Engel, Royce, as well as Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), in introducing the measure, “The bill requires coordination by the Inspectors General to develop oversight and audit plans; extends reporting requirements for cost studies; caps U.S. participation in the Global Fund; requires a robust annual report; and protects funding for treatment for orphans and vulnerable children” (9/25).

PEPFAR “is credited with saving millions of lives, predominantly in Africa, by helping to provide antiretroviral drugs” and other services, CQ HealthBeat notes. “‘This legislation seeks to reinforce these gains through improved oversight and reporting requirements while also extending provisions that promote greater country ownership and expanded international donor support,’ Corker said in a written statement,” the news service writes. Chris Collins, vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, said, “I think this bill does some important things. First of all, it reaffirms Congress’ broad-based support. … I think the accountability features are important to success and a valuable part of this bill,” according to CQ (Cadei, 9/25). The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog notes Catherine Connor, senior director of public policy and advocacy for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said, “Having bipartisan and bicameral committee leadership introduce this legislation is a strong signal of support for the program. If it passes, it will be an even stronger signal to appropriators that this program remains a priority for the Congress” (Barton, 9/25). A fact sheet (.pdf) on the “PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act” is available from Lee’s office (9/25).