USA (MNN) — With his signature Wednesday, President Bush made history. To date the president has done more than any other leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Yesterday, he signed H.R. 5501, the reauthorizing of PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS), which allocates an unprecedented $48 billion over the next five years to help treat and prevent AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
Of those funds, $39 billion is slated exclusively for the fight against AIDS, up from the $15 billion spent by the previous plan. The new legislation more than triples the amount of PEPFAR funding for AIDS and other diseases, assuring that life-giving education and support will continue to be provided to tens of millions of needy people over the next five years.
Dave Evans, Vice President of Food for the Hungry and Chair of the AERDO HIV/AIDS Alliance, applauds the extension, "There's a lot of concern about things like how abstinence and faithfulness and the conscious clause, for example, for faith-based organizations — how those things would be dealt with in the new bill. Things like abstinence and faithfulness and other important things to the faith based community remain in this bill. So, we're thrilled, actually."
Evans says the president's signature allows for, "Uninterrupted treatment for people who are on AIDS treatment, those orphans and vulnerable children who are receiving services and those who are being trained and taught about prevention — so all of that is able to continue on."
Since 2005, Food for the Hungry has lead an effective AHA (AERDO – Association of Evangelical Relief & Development Organizations – HIV/AIDS Alliance) consortium implementing a prevention program for over 1.7 million youth and adults in Mozambique, Haiti, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
Recent studies show the work has been effective, according to HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator Kim Buttonow. "There have been several exciting achievements including results from a recent survey indicating this program is having a positive effect on people's lives and that they are practicing abstinence and faithfulness as a means of HIV prevention."
In addition to the core PEPFAR grant, Food for the Hungry has also been awarded a $1.9 million expansion grant in Mozambique and Nigeria, expanding the coverage of current prevention programs for youth and the prevention of sexual abuse.
Evans says these additional dollars will help many groups who are doing the work, many of them faith based. "40 percent of the health care that is provided in the developing world is provided through faith based institutions."
Food for the Hungry will be applying for some of this funding. The money awarded to them will help them with their work, but won't hinder them from the mission. "We partner with a lot of churches and they're very good at reaching out in a compassionate way to people who are suffering from AIDS, or families that are affected by it. They will remain a key partner of ours in the future."
Even though the money is public funding, he says "We can remain confessional and do this work at the same time."