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Last Updated:10/05/01
Speech by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Maryland), July 24, 2001
Mr. Chairman, today I rise not only as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources of the Committee on Government Reform that the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. SOUDER), who just spoke, is chairman of, so I am very familiar with our efforts to fight drugs all over the world, but at the same time I stand here as one who was just informed by my health commissioner that in the City of Baltimore, which is only 45 miles away from here, in my district and three ZIP Codes, we have a level of AIDS that is approaching very rapidly the levels found in Africa and third world countries. That is 45 miles from here, less than an hour's drive.

So when the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. LEACH) spoke a little bit earlier about his concerns about making sure that we provide a proper defense for this country, that not only affects the third world but it also affects these very United States.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of the Lee amendment which seeks to add the $60 million to the U.S. contribution to the Global AIDS and Health Fund, and I compliment her on her efforts and those associated with it.

I would also like to state for the record that I am disturbed by some of the comments made about this amendment. I am disturbed because I cannot believe that Members of this great House have questioned the integrity of the amendment. Last week I read in the CQ Daily Monitor a quote from a Member on the other side of the aisle when he said, ``Are they really trying to add money to HIV/AIDS or trying to cut money from the other side?''

While our efforts in fighting international narcotics are a very serious issue and concern, there are many valid issues that must be addressed regarding our role in the Andean region.

Although I am a supporter of Plan Colombia, some of the concerns you have heard about today are valid and need further scrutiny. What is important at this juncture is finding a cure and stopping the spread of a deadly pandemic. AIDS is an all inclusive, nondiscriminatory disease that transcends country boundaries, age, gender, and race.

Experts predict that more people will die of AIDS in the next decade than have died in all the wars of the 20th century. It is estimated that $7 to $10 billion are needed to fight this global AIDS pandemic. Further, I recently read a statement that and I quote, ``It is a dramatic paradox that the same continent that saw the appearance of a man 6 million years ago is starting to witness our disappearance this millennium.'' Yet we continue to quibble over $60 million.

Listen to the statistics. Worldwide, more than 36 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. That is more than the entire population of the great State of California. There are more than five million new infections each year; 600,000 of those are in children under the age of 15. By 2010, AIDS will orphan 44 million children. More than a fifth of all adults in at least four African countries are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. According to the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, if the crisis is not addressed, 100 million people will be infected worldwide by 2005.

I believe that the Congress and the President's demonstrated unwillingness to increase international family planning funds and the crushing debt burden these countries face leave many developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, with limited options, thereby exacerbating this devastating health crisis.

Of the 22 countries who have received debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, two-thirds will spend more on servicing their debt than they spend on basic health care. As such, those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and its related illnesses are left untreated and unaccounted for.

Mr. Chairman, we have the means and the moral obligation to maintain a commitment to be leaders and fighters on this issue. As such, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE). The funding is critical to sustaining the role that the Global AIDS Health Fund can play in eradicating the deadly effects of HIV/AIDS. Let us remain steadfast in our commitment.

As of October 5, 2001, this document was also available online at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/B?r107:@FIELD(FLD003+h)+@FIELD(DDATE+20010724)

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