Syriaby Senator Johnny Isakson
Posted on 2013-02-26
ISAKSON. Madam President, I rise today, in this year of 2013, on
the tenth anniversary of the State of the Union Address given by
President George W. Bush when he introduced a program known as PEPFAR--
the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief--a program that has
had remarkable success in the last decade.
A lot of that success has taken place on the continent of Africa, where I just returned from my seventh trip in the last decade. This was a trip where remarkable things were observed happening all over the continent in terms of AIDS infection being reduced, mother-to-child transmission being in fact eliminated in many cases, and seeing that the biggest challenge today for those who fall victim to AIDS is not that they will die soon but that they will have the continuum of care necessary to see to it they live a normal lifestyle with the antiretrovirals provided by PEPFAR.
It is important that the American taxpayers, the American people, those of us in Congress recognize what has been achieved in the last decade, for our taxpayers have invested billions of dollars on the continent of Africa to begin the process of trying to eliminate AIDS. We cannot yet declare victory, but we can declare great victories in battles along the way, and we are making more and more of them along the way. Males are getting tested, females are getting tested, as they should, and mothers are getting the care they need with antiretrovirals during their pregnancies to prevent the transmission to their babies, and we are seeing a continuation of the progress of the great program started 10 years ago by this Congress, by President Bush, and by the American people.
We are beginning to send the message, and we need to let the African countries know, that we will be scaling down our investment and raising their participation at the government level. It is important to see to it that PEPFAR remains a viable program. In our visit of the past 7, 8, now 9 days, I guess it was, we visited the Congo, we visited Mali, Senegal, Morocco, and we visited South Africa. In each and every country they are beginning the process of having more and more of their health professionals taking more and more of the responsibility of caring for people, testing people, and distributing the antiretrovirals, which lessens the pressure on the budget of the United States of America. But I think it is important to recognize that a disease we feared was going to take much of the population of that continent--and ours, for that matter--10 years ago is now a disease that is being managed and being reduced, and over time, we hope, we will have a generation free of HIV/AIDS not only in America but around the world.
There is a troubling event happening on the continent of Africa and in Asia, and that is there are those who are taking the volunteers who come from our country and other organizations and actually stopping them from giving inoculations and vaccinations to the people. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are the last three countries on Earth where polio still exists. A few weeks ago, in the Congo, in Nigeria, nine workers were killed trying to give vaccinations to children in Nigeria because Islamic leaders in those countries had tried to tell them that in order to reduce the Arab population American donations of polio vaccine would in fact cause them to be impotent when they grew up. That is the farthest thing from the truth, but it is a wives' tale being told to eliminate or keep vaccinations from getting to the people who need them. In the country of Pakistan, since December 12, there have been five attacks on workers distributing vaccines trying to eliminate polio in Pakistan.
So as we celebrate the victories in terms of HIV/AIDS, polio, malaria, and other diseases, we have to also recognize there is still ignorance in some parts of the world that is prohibiting people who will ultimately get sick and die from getting the vaccines necessary to keep from contracting these difficult diseases. So I come to the floor today to recognize the great achievement of the American people in the war against AIDS on the continent of Africa, and the creation of PEPFAR by George W. Bush, but also to send out a warning to those trying to prohibit the vaccinations and the antiretrovirals from getting to the people who need them in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Because one day we want a generation free of HIV/AIDS and disease not just on the continent of North America or the continent of Africa but around the world.
It is a tribute to the American medical community, the researchers and developers, the American people, and this Congress that the war on AIDS is still being engaged, and we are declaring victory after victory on the battlefield. One day we hope we will have a generation free of AIDS not just in America but around the world.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.