It’s official: Bush signs PEPFAR into law

Legislation to re-authorize global HIV/AIDS funding through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reached the end of its long and tortuous passage to the president’s desk yesterday, and has been signed into law “in a celebratory public flourish,” according to the Washington Post.

Dan Eggen of the Post described the bill’s enactment this way:

The legislation authorizes $48 billion to be spent during the next five years to treat and prevent AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with AIDS accounting for $39 billion of the total. The expenditures would dwarf the $15 billion spent over the previous five years as part of Bush’s emergency anti-AIDS efforts, which the president and even many of his detractors view as one of the biggest accomplishments of his tenure.

“We are a compassionate nation,” Bush said at the ceremony. “And that’s what this bill says loud and clear.”

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), who sponsored the bill, said its bipartisan support “is a tribute to what we can achieve in foreign policy when the cause is right and all parties work together in goodwill.”

I love that quote from Berman.

Bush’s approval of PEPFAR also removes certain travel restrictions that have made it difficult for people living with HIV/AIDS to enter and remain in the United States.

So . . . PEPFAR made it.  What to say?  This is big.  PEPFAR funding has and no doubt will continue to be controversial.  Some don’t like the fact that it’s happening at all, while many others object to some of its provisions and stipulations.

Any response to a problem as delicate and complex as HIV/AIDS is bound to encounter controversy and debate.  That’s not, in itself, a bad thing.  Personally, I agree with some of PEPFAR’s critics — I think certain aspects of the legislation are misguided and/or potentially problematic.  I plan to post on some responses to PEPFAR over the next few days, so some of these issues will come out.

On the whole, however, I’m delighted that PEPFAR is now law.  Whatever its foibles, shortcomings, and problems, it is far, far, far better than nothing, and it is far better than what preceded it (the original PEPFAR legislation, which was itself a great help to millions of people).

There is room to evaluate and critique the new law — hopefully with a desire to learn and improve, not just to complain.  But for now: let us be thankful.  And let’s remember the people who have and will benefit from PEPFAR funding and services, and keep them in our prayers.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.”  – Psalm 106:1

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~ by h.e.g. on July 31, 2008.

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