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Pediatric AIDSHIV/AIDS is embedded in social and economic inequity and there exists a critical connection between the disease and poverty. There is strong evidence that the disease affects individuals of lower socioeconomic status and impoverished nations at a disproportionately high rate. This is also true when examining the occurrence of mother-to-child transmission, which accounts for more than 90 percent of HIV infections in children.

S. Res. 310, according to U.S. Congress, is a “resolution that recognizes the importance of a continued commitment to end pediatric AIDS worldwide.” This is of extreme importance because, not only do children suffer the most from HIV/AIDS because of their developing immune systems, but they also are the key to eradicating the disease and breaking the cycle of infection. Without diagnosis and treatment, one-third of infected infants will die before the age of one, one-half will die before their second birthday and 80 percent will die before their fifth birthday.

As a leading cause of death among adolescents, AIDS is devastating the lives and hopes of millions of children worldwide. Pediatric HIV-related deaths have more than tripled since 2000, requiring immediate attention and resolution.

S. Res. 310 recognizes that women and children are in desperate need of HIV-related services. Data from 2016 shows that half of the 36,700,000 people worldwide who suffer from HIV are women and 2,100,000 are children. Despite the increased efforts by the U.S. and countries around the world, over 400 children were born HIV-positive every day in 2016. This legislation highlights that continued commitment is required in order to eradicate pediatric AIDS.

The resolution allows the U.S. to provide women and children with HIV counseling and testing services and to improve access to services and medicines that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The legislation also supports expanding treatment for pediatric and adolescent HIV, including greater access to more efficacious antiretroviral drug regimens, age-appropriate services and support for the caregivers of children and adolescents.

In the words of the resolution, “every mother should have the opportunity to fight for the life of her child; and every child and adolescent should have access to medicine to lead a long and healthy life.”

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Legislation
Legislation is one major factor that keeps the United States strong. Without rules and regulations, we simply wouldn’t be the United States. That being said, the year of 2015 has been chock full of legislation plans.

In order to be a well-informed citizen, it is important to keep an eye on the current legislation that is in review by the government. The following list will showcase just a few of the many important happenings within Congress.

1. Affordable Care Act

For the nation’s endlessly controversial healthcare law, 2015 initially looks a little bit like 2012, with lots of uncertainty hinging on a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. States that want to get a head start against the possibility of disruption will have to act quickly.

2. Global Food Security Act

In the last 24 years, we have seen the number of undernourished people in the world go down by 209 million people. Out of that 209 million, 203 million came from “developing regions.” This act would enable our government to craft a comprehensive strategy to enable food security, utilizing the funds, personnel and brainpower of at least 11 different departments and agencies. These organizations would then collaborate with others around the world to advance innovative, cost-effective plans with strong accountability mechanisms.

3. Food for Peace Reform Act

The bill eliminates monetization of the international food market, which GAO has previously criticized as “inefficient” and unsustainable for the recipient’s market. Removing monetization would allow U.S. aid to reach an additional 800,000 people while freeing up to $30 million per year. Under the current process, 25 cents is lost on every taxpayer dollar spent.

4. International Affairs Budget

The International Affairs Budget makes up only a mere one percent of the U.S. federal budget, but impacts all aspects of life in America. These funds are imperative for helping the world’s poor, and as global citizens we must back initiatives that can save millions of lives both domestically and abroad.

5. School Testing

When governors and state school officials released the Common Core curriculum standards four and a half years ago, the new program was touted as a fair and accurate way to measure student achievement across state lines and cultivate the analytical skills that many argue American children will need in order to compete on a global scale.

This legislation is in no order of importance, as they are all equal in importance to help the United States facilitate positive growth both domestically and internationally.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Governing, Borgen Project
Photo: The Whitehouse

AGOA
In 2000, the United States Congress approved legislation entitled the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, in hopes to better economic relations between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. The legislation highlights key factors in trade between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa while providing many benefits.

The act was initially set to expire in 2008, but President George W. Bush signed the AGOA Acceleration Act of 2004, which extended AGOA to 2015. The Act’s apparel special provision, which permits lesser-developed countries to use foreign fabric for their garment exports, was to expire in September 2007.

However, legislation passed by Congress in December 2006 extended it through 2012.

The legislation authorized the President of the United States to determine which sub-Saharan African countries would be eligible for AGOA on an annual basis. The eligibility criteria was to improve labor rights and movement toward a market-based economy. Each year, the president evaluates the sub-Saharan African countries and determines which countries should remain eligible.

Currently, there are 44 African countries eligible with AGOA.

 

What are the benefits of AGOA for African countries?

AGOA provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods, expanding the benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP, program.

AGOA expanded market access for textile and apparel goods into the United States for eligible countries, though many other goods are also included. This resulted in the growth of an apparel industry in southern Africa, and created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

In addition to growth in the textile and apparel industry, some AGOA countries have begun to export new products to the United States, such as cut flowers, horticultural products, automotives and steel.

;Agricultural products is a promising area for AGOA trade; however, much work needs to be done to assist African countries in meeting U.S. sanitary and phytosanitary standards.

 

What are the benefits of AGOA for US firms?

By creating tangible incentives for African countries to implement economic and commercial reform policies, AGOA contributes to better market opportunities and stronger commercial partners in Africa for U.S. companies. The Act strengthens commercial ties between Africa and the United States, while it helps to integrate Africa into the global economy.

U.S. firms may find new opportunities in privatizations of African state-owned enterprises or in partnership with African companies in infrastructure projects.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: AGOA, International Trade Administration
Photo: Financial Mail

spending_package
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $1 trillion government spending package on Thursday, December 11. The agreement will keep the government open into next year. With major opposition from House Democrats, the bill narrowly squeaked by on a 219-206 vote. The Senate passed a two-day funding bill after the House vote, dodging a government shutdown that would have started at midnight on the 12th.

House Democrats interrupted plans for a Thursday afternoon vote on the bill because of opposition to provisions entailing more relaxed regulations on Wall Street and with campaign finance laws. This opposition incited a rare case in which House Democrats became pitted against President Obama, who approved of the deal for its inclusion of several of his specific spending priorities. These priorities include more funds to fight Islamic State militants, help combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and distribute more Pell Grants for college students.

The clash began on Tuesday when Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) strongly opposed the bill’s weakening of a certain provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services law that was created to protect taxpayers from risks resulting from complex financial trades by large banks. Democrats were further dissatisfied with a provision that significantly increased the funding private donors can grant to political conventions. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted she was not made fully aware of the provision’s extent before the package’s initial unveiling.

After Democrats voted against advancing the bill on Thursday afternoon, House GOP leaders took the bill off the floor and the White House began trying to drudge up Democratic support for the package. President Obama and Vice President Biden began personally calling House Democrats in the final few hours before the dreaded government shutdown, encouraging them to view the bill more favorably. Meanwhile White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough went to Capitol Hill in an effort to change dubious Democrats’ minds, insisting that passing the deal would place more confidence into the economy. Democrats exiting the meeting claimed that McDonough had told them the federal government could not survive on constant short-term continuing resolutions.

Some Democrats supported the bill, arguing in favor of the fact that it does contain several democratic spending priorities. Notably, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is the second-highest-ranking House Democrat, openly supported the package. Some Republicans, on the other hand, opposed the bill on the grounds that it would not be able to succeed in reining in the President’s order. This internal opposition meant that Republicans needed Democratic votes in order to pass the deal.

Eventually many House Democrats decided to offer up their support for the legislation, enough to ultimately ensure that it successfully passed. 57 Democrats ended up crossing the divide to vote in favor of the bill along with 162 Republicans. The deal has arisen out of weeks of negotiations between Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), and their respective party leaders.

– Shenel Ozisik

Sources: USA Today, Politico
Photo: ABC

Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014
On Tuesday, U.S. lawmakers introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., jointly introduced this legislation, which would end restrictions on international food aid programs.

“More than anything else, the mission of America’s food aid program is to save lives,” Coons said. “Our current system for acquiring and distributing food aid is inefficient and often hurts the very communities it is trying to help.”

1. Feed More People
The reformed food aid legislation would feed about 9 million people around the world.

2. Greater Efficiency
The legislation would make hundreds of millions of dollars more available per year. Currently, the food aid program has restrictions that require food to be produced in the United States rather than purchased locally. It costs more and takes months to reach people in disaster areas. It would also allow U.S. locally or regionally acquired commodities, cash transfers or vouchers to be used for aid.

3. Small Effect on U.S. Agriculture
U.S. food aid contributed merely 0.86 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports between 2002 and 2011 and just 1.41 percent of net farm income.

4. Let USAID Ship Food on Any Available Vessels
Currently, half of food aid must also be transported on U.S. vessels, which takes months and costs more. The cargo preference requirement means that aid is shipped at 46 percent higher than the market rate.

5. End Monetization
“Monetization” is a requirement that says 15 percent of all U.S. donated food must be sold first by aid organizations, which produces cash that funds development projects. Removing this would save 25 cents out of every taxpayer dollar, would feed 800,000 more people and make about $30 million per year more available. Many development supporters argue that monetization upsets local markets.

“At a time when our budget is strained and U.S. resources are limited, Congress needs to find ways to be more efficient and effective with every dollar,” Corker said.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Reuters, Agri-Pulse
Photo: Africa Green Media

Foreign Aid Quotes
Although Congress is known to disagree amongst itself, there is one issue that many members of the Democratic and Republican Party do agree on: the importance of foreign aid. Here are 10 quotes made by members of Congress stressing the need to continue funding foreign aid.

1. “Foreign aid must be viewed as an investment, not an expense…but when foreign aid is carefully guided and targeted at a specific issue, it can and must be effective.” – U.S. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), Huffington Post, June 2011

2. “The world we live in takes a multifaceted approach. To the American taxpayer: We need to be investing in improving people’s lives before the terrorists try to take over.” – U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Foreign Policy magazine, February 2011

3. “For development to play its full role in our national security structure, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) must be a strong agency with the resources to accomplish the missions we give it. But during the last two decades, decision-makers have not made it easy for USAID to perform its vital function. Even as we have rediscovered the importance of foreign assistance, we find ourselves with a frail foundation to support a robust development strategy. I believe the starting point for any future design of our assistance programs and organization should not be the status quo, but rather the period in which we had a well functioning and well-resourced aid agency.” – U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Statement on Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act, July 2009

4.“The right question to ask is: are we really spending too much on non-defense programs? The answer is clearly no. Non-defense discretionary spending levels are essentially unchanged from 2001. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to afford them today.” – U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), June 2011

5.”The real problem in America’s spending is not foreign aid, which is a very small part of our budget.” – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Town Hall meeting, July 2011

6. “We face tremendous foreign policy and national security challenges worldwide, from helping countries manage peaceful, democratic transitions in the Middle East, to preventing violence, conflict, and terrorism from engulfing key partners, and to leading humanitarian responses to forestall drought, famine, and natural disasters. We are only able to achieve these aims with a strong State Department and USAID.” – U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Press release, July 2011

7. “Leaders of both parties have affirmed that U.S. power is a three-legged stool of military might, diplomatic skill and development. The foreign aid bill’s diplomatic and development objectives pay dividends by helping avoid military deployments to protect U.S. interests, which are far more costly in both life and treasure. Robust engagement is no less necessary to achieve strategic security imperatives in this belt-tightening atmosphere. Investments in health, education, humanitarian aid for refugees and disaster victims and micro-loans for entrepreneurs are critical to fostering stability around the world. It would be senseless to let our response to a fiscal challenge create a national security crisis.” – U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Op-Ed in Politico, February 2011

8. “Our top military leaders are adamant that International Affairs programs are a critical to our national security. Our top business leaders are adamant that these programs are critical to our economic future. I’ve seen firsthand how these programs work beyond the frontline states and these cuts will seriously restrict our ability to keep Americans safe and advance our economic interests.” – Former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador Mark Green, July 2011

9. “Foreign aid is important. If it’s done right, it spreads America’s influence around the world in a positive way.” – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Town Hall meeting, July 2011

10. (In support of continuing aid to Egypt) “Cut off all aid immediately and you will take an economy that is already floundering and probably drive it into chaos, and that is not in anyone’s national security interests.” – Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J

Mary Penn

Sources: Huffington Post, InterAction
Photo: Politico

 

Read Humanitarian Quotes.

globalfund
On March 21, 2013, Congress reaffirmed its support for the Global Fund by passing a continuing resolution that ensures support and funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Even with increased tension within Congress over budget cuts and a very tight budget, Congress has shown it understands how necessary and critical the work done by the Global Fund and its affiliates is in fighting these life-threatening diseases.

The Global Fund has helped combat these diseases and improve health by focusing on development assistance. A large part of its strategy has to do with providing the funds necessary in development and implementation of new technology and interventions that have and will continue to change the trajectory of these dangerous diseases. This funding comes from a lot of different sources, yet, the United States is by far the largest donor. With the US’s aid, the Global Fund is able to finance interventions in more than 150 countries across the globe.

This means that the world is on track to halve the amount of people affected by tuberculosis by 2015 (as compared to the 1990s numbers). Elimination of malaria in many territories is occurring and will continue to occur with the help of the Global Fund. New infections of HIV are on the decline in many countries as awareness and preventive methods are becoming more and more common. With the continued support of the United States – which comes across through Congress’ support of the bill – these numbers will only improve. The number of people affected by tuberculosis will continue on a downward spiral. More and more territories will be malaria free and HIV prevention will be a bigger concern than treating HIV.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Global Fund