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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Budget cuts for aids babies

This e-mail comes from Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost. Make sure to contact your congressman about this!

Don't like to pitch stories to bloggers, but this is an issue that I think deserves our attention. My sources say that the funding of this program--which funds HIV testing for infants to prevent HIV related infections--was blocked by low-level staffers from the CDC. Why? Who knows? But all too often this is "how things get done" in D.C. Some unelected staffer sneaks in wording that circumvents the will of both the American people and our representatives.
Congress Blocks Funding of "Baby AIDS" Program

Every year thousands of babies, predominately from poor African-American families, are born at risk of developing HIV. Many of these children develop HIV related infections that could have easily been prevented by prenatal testing and treatment. States that have implemented HIV testing for infants have seen their infections rates drop dramatically. Such success even inspired Congress to pass the Ryan White Early Diagnosis Grant Program. The program authorized $30 million in funding to states with infant HIV testing in order to ensure that these vulnerable children are protected.

The program was created just two months ago yet someone has already included language in the appropriations bill to prohibit funding for the "Baby Aids" program. Section 20613(b) of H.J.Res. 20 states:

(b) None of the funds appropriated by this division may be used to: (1) implement section 2625 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300ff-33; relating to the Ryan White early diagnosis grant program)…

This provision does not save any money but simply prohibits funds to help identify these toddlers. In fact, the funding was already included in President Bush's FY08 budget request. So why would anyone insert this language into the bill?

Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) attempted to add an amendment to restore the funding. Unfortunately, Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) never allowed the amendment to be included before the bill reached the Senate floor for a vote.

One would think that protecting sick babies is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans would fully endorse. So who inserted this language? And why wasn't Sen. Coburn's amendment added? Every American who cares about children should be asking that question – and demanding that Congress give us an answer.

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