Pallone Urges President Bush to Include India in International HIV/AIDS Relief Program
Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, today called on President Bush to include India as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a five-year, $15 billion dollar plan to combat international HIV/AIDS. Funding thus far has gone to 14 countries in Africa and the Caribbean, but now Congress has mandated the Bush administration select a 15th country in a new region of the world.
"Designating India as the 15th country of the PEPFAR is consistent with your ambitious international HIV/AIDS goals and will certainly help to achieve your objectives," the New Jersey Congressman wrote in a letter sent to President Bush on Monday. "With appropriate intervention and adequate U.S. funding, India is capable of containing its pandemic."
With a national HIV/AIDS infection rate of just under one-percent and more than four million people infected, India ranks just behind South Africa as the country with the largest number of HIV/AIDS cases. A recent report by the National Intelligence Council indicates that without the urgent implementation of a sizable, coordinated, and sustained response to the epidemic, India could have as many as 25 million cases of HIV/AIDS by the end of the decade.
"As the worlds largest democracy with a population of over one billion people, India now stands at a crossroads in its response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic," Pallone wrote. "India's domestic commitment and relatively strong health care infrastructure, coupled with U.S. funding and resources, can effectively scale up prevention programs and help provide universal access to treatment services in a country as large and diverse as India."
During a visit to New Delhi in January, Pallone toured the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) facility, a vaccine research center for which Pallone helped secure $24 million in federal funding.
"The Indian governments response to the AIDS epidemic has undergone a revolution in recent years," Pallone continued. "Political leadership from the Prime Minister, and in particular, a group of dedicated Parliamentarians who created a Parliamentary Forum on HIV/AIDS, have helped to motivate plans to expand prevention programs, provide anti-retroviral treatment, and draft legislation to criminalize discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS."
Pallone is currently circulating a letter to members of the House International Relations and Energy and Commerce Committees calling on them to hold a hearing on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India.