October 1, 2003 

An angry group of Pennsylvania AIDS advocates sent a large white funeral wreath to Senator Arlen Specter's (R-PA) Washington, DC office, charging that he has stopped supporting people with AIDS in the US and abroad. In early September, Senator Specter successfully defeated an amendment by Senator Durbin (D-IL) to the Labor HHS Appropriations bill. The Durbin Amendment would have increased US funding for global AIDS to $3 billion for 2004, adding a desperately needed $1 billion for the cash-strapped Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"Senator Specter has apparently decided to stop supporting AIDS funding," said Amy Shultz of ACT UP Philadelphia. "The same man who wrote a letter to President Bush demanding $1 billion for the Global Fund in 2001 is now claiming that money can't be used by people dying in the thousands every day because they can't afford treatment. He knows better, and his votes are a cynical attempt to appease the White House and rally Republican support during his re-election campaign."

Added Shultz, "Pennsylvania is home to dozens of faith communities that support the fight against AIDS in Africa. But the interests of his constituents were not Senator Specter's uppermost concern. Ingratiating himself to the White House was, apparently." This morning, Specter could be seen on television defending the White House leak of the name of a CIA operative.

President Bush objects to spending $3 billion on global AIDS in 2004, although relief agencies have confirmed that the money could be absorbed by poor countries and although the White House promised $3 billion in AIDS spending when President Bush signed the Global AIDS Act in May 2003.

Specter also blocked an amendment by Senator Schumer (D-NY) to add $466 million to pay for AIDS services for Americans. There are long waiting lists for critical AIDS medication programs?like the AIDS Drug Assistance Program?in many states and several people have died because they were waiting to obtain desperately needed medicines. Says Shultz, "There's a lot of public support for the AIDS Drug assistance program in Pennsylvania, so Specter is really bucking a trend here. His vote was a slap in the face to people with AIDS."

As early as today, a new $1 billion global AIDS amendment will be introduced to the $87 million emergency spending bill. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Durbin.


1. Support the $1 billion Durbin amendment for global AIDS to the
Iraq-Afghanistan Emergency Spending Bill.

2. Support full funding for the Ryan White Care Act in conference committee,
including at least $215 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

3. Sign Senator Schumer's"Dear Colleague" letter to support more funding
for the Ryan White Care Act.

4. Advocate for $3 billion for global AIDS in 2004. This money is
desperately needed in poor countries. Contrary to the assertions of the
White House, $3 billion can be absorbed by developing nations, according to
reports by leading relief groups.

Every good wreath comes with a card.
The card reads

Senator Specter:

Our deepest sympathies.
Your lack of support in the fight against AIDS is killing millons.
May this wreath warm your heart as you vote against the Durbin amendment this week.

ACT UP Philadelphia


  Contact 267-475-2645

Pa. senators should push the President to fulfill his global AIDS pledge

The Allentown Morning Call   Editorial   Oct 1, 2003

Democrats and Republicans praised the Global AIDS Initiative when President Bush unveiled it in his State of the Union address in January. No previous administration had pledged so much to fight AIDS worldwide.

''We can turn our eyes away in resignation and despair,'' President Bush said in his speech, ''or, we can take decisive, historic action to turn the tide against this disease and give the hope of life to millions who need our help.'' The President also said — and this eloquent phrase has often been quoted — that ''seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.''

Nobody argued with the President's points, given the staggering, oftentimes surreal statistics of global AIDS. The President signed a law in May creating the Global AIDS Initiative and pledging $3 billion a year for five years, for a total of $15 billion for fiscal years 2004 through 2008. But already, in the first year of the program, the administration is reneging on its promise. Now it's up to those on Capitol Hill, including Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, to persuade the administration to abide by its promise.

Instead of fulfilling the initial $3 billion pledge, with the first installment due in the fiscal year beginning this week, Mr. Bush and top Republicans say $2 billion will suffice in the next fiscal year. The President's budget and spending bills drafted in the GOP-dominated Congress earmark only $2 billion for fiscal 2004.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider AIDS funding today. Mr. Specter has flip-flopped on his support for the $3 billion funding for fiscal 2004. In June, he urged the Senate Appropriations Committee ''to seize this historic opportunity to save lives'' with full funding. But by fall, Mr. Specter and Mr. Santorum opposed an amendment proposed by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., to restore the full $3 billion.

AIDS has orphaned more than 13 million children under age 15 in Africa alone. Health officials project there will be 40 million AIDS orphans by 2010. Mr. Bush must fulfill his pledge to aid those on the front lines of this horrible health catastrophe.

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