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Lawmakers Call For Bipartisan Support For AIDS Funding At AIDS 2012 Panel Discussion

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., joined former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) for a panel discussion on bipartisanship “focusing on sustaining the engagement of the U.S. Congress in order to demonstrate and encourage continued U.S. leadership in the fight against global AIDS,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports (Mazzotta, 7/25). During the session, Rubio “expressed strong support for foreign aid, especially funding to combat HIV/AIDS,” and Lee “recounted with Frist the history of U.S. efforts to provide global funding,” CQ HealthBeat reports (Adams, 7/25). “‘We have to keep our eyes on the prize,’ and focus on moving forward and figuring out how to work together in a bipartisan way. It happened in the past, [Lee] said, and we can do it again,” “Science Speaks” writes (7/25). Coons “recommended the United States ‘double down’ on investments for AIDS,” in order to “‘innovate and cure our way out of this. That, I think, is in keeping with the optimism and the entrepreneurship of the American character,’ added Mr. Coons,” the Washington Times notes. The discussion was “punctuated by protesters with red umbrellas and signs calling for an end to the ‘criminalization’ of sex workers, drug addicts and other marginalized groups with AIDS,” the Washington Times writes (Wetzstein, 7/25).

In an article examining funding for AIDS programs, National Journal notes “AIDS programs enjoy wide bipartisan support in Congress, but funding for them might still be crowded out by other priorities in the budget fights ahead.” In a statement last week, Enzi said, “It is crucial that we continue to work nationally and internationally to prevent new infections and ensure people living with HIV/AIDS have access to the best treatment and care they need,” according to the news service (Sanger-Katz/Brownstein, 7/25). At the conference, GlobalPost correspondent John Donnelly interviewed Frist, who said, “The times are challenging. The backdrop for the next five years will be focused on fiscal restraint,” according to the news service. Noting that most Americans incorrectly believe the U.S. spends 10 percent — instead of the actual one percent — of its budget on foreign aid, Frist said, “That can be rectified by more communication, better education and establishing the facts, reaching out directly to Americans such that they understand and don’t put pressure on their legislators to indiscriminately cut,” according to GlobalPost (7/26).

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