The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would provide increased funding for worldwide efforts to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The action came as scientists, health care experts and activists concluded an international conference on AIDS in Barcelona, Spain.
The bill allocates $4.5 billion over two years to be spent on AIDS treatment, vaccines and education, and vaccine programs for tuberculosis and malaria.
It also would establish a program for U.S. medical personnel to train health care workers in AIDS-afflicted countries, especially in Africa.
Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and a doctor, pointed out that the passage of the legislation is an important step toward ending the devastation many countries face in the fight against AIDS.
Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, a sponsor of the bill, said, "This disease knows no boundaries, it travels across borders to infect innocent people in every continent across the globe. We have an obligation to continue to fight against this disease at home but we should also share what we have learned to help those in this life and death battle."
Senator Kennedy said the bill demonstrates the commitment of the United States to lead the fight against AIDS.
At the international AIDS conference in Barcelona this week, protesters demanded that the United States increase assistance for the global battle against the deadly disease.
Earlier this year the House passed a one-year, $1.3 billion bill to fight AIDS and other diseases. The House and the more generous Senate version must be reconciled before a final bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle called on the House to match the funding level in his chamber's bill. "Unless we work in a bipartisan fashion to see that money appropriated, this bill offers little more than false hope," he said.
Earlier this year, the Congress approved $200 million toward a new global AIDS fund.