Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi: 'HIV/AIDS Prevention Too Important to be Undermined by Politics; We Must Support What Works'

May 1, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi gave the following statement on the House floor during debate this afternoon on a bill to triple funding to fight the global AIDS pandemic. Pelosi strongly supported the bill, which passed overwhelmingly, but opposed an amendment by Congressman Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania requiring that one-third of the prevention money be spent on abstinence-only programs. The Pitts amendment passed by a vote of 220 to 197.

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the Pitts Amendment. But first, I want to commend Chairman Henry Hyde and Ranking Member Tom Lantos for the strong and effective bipartisan bill they produced in the International Relations Committee. I also want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of Rep. Barbara Lee, who has fought for years to strengthen our efforts in the fight against the AIDS pandemic domestically and internationally.

"The statistics are staggering and should move us to action. Every day, more than 16,000 people become infected with HIV, primarily in the developing world. This crisis is too severe and our response is too important to let our efforts be undermined by politics. We must support what works. We are talking about saving lives. If we do, experts say that a strong global response could prevent nearly two-thirds of the 45 million new infections that are projected by 2020, saving tens of millions of lives.

"The successes are there for us to replicate. We can look to Uganda as a model for inspiration. We can learn a lot from their experience. Over the past decade, Uganda’s infection rates have dropped from 30 percent to 5 percent. It can be done. This success was achieved using the model of prevention that is a key component of the Hyde-Lantos bill -- a model that gives equal weight to the full range of options and relies on the best scientific information. H.R. 1298 is not anti-abstinence. It supports a balanced approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. This is a debate about whether or not we use the model that has been effective in Uganda and that gives flexibility to those fighting this disease on the ground.

"In July 2001, NIH confirmed the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV transmission. The Pitts Amendment asks us to abandon what we know and has been proven to work.

"H.R. 1298 is a bipartisan bill that we can all proudly support. It’s a bill that President Bush supports. Why sacrifice that broad support in the name of politics, especially when so many lives are at stake?

"Keeping information from people does not keep them safe. And when that information is about AIDS, it can be a death sentence. I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose the Pitts Amendment and to support the original Hyde-Lantos bill."


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