House Approves Restrictions to Non-Humanitarian Assistance in Vietnam, Debates Impact on PEPFAR
The House on Monday approved 323-45 a bill (HR 1587) that would restrict nonhumanitarian assistance to Vietnam, which President Bush recently named a focus country under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the AP/Yahoo! News reports (Abrams, AP/Yahoo! News, 7/19). Vietnam is the only country outside of Africa and the Caribbean eligible for funds under the five-year, $15 billion plan. Although there are currently about 130,000 HIV-positive people in Vietnam, some analysts predict that number could increase eightfold to one million people by 2010. Senior administration officials said that the administration "considers that Vietnam is a place where the American people's money can really make a tremendous impact because it is on the brink of a very explosive epidemic" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9). The bill passed by the House on Monday would prevent the government from increasing nonhumanitarian aid to Vietnam over this year's level of about $40 million unless the president certifies that the country is releasing political prisoners and is taking steps to improve its overall human rights record (AFP/Yahoo! News, 7/20). Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) during debate on the measure said that recent improvements in relations with Vietnam, including the HIV/AIDS initiative, "would be endangered by the shift in relations under this legislation." However, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who sponsored the measure, said that funding to fight AIDS in Vietnam would not be reduced under the legislation (AP/Yahoo! News, 7/19).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.