House approves extension of program to combat AIDS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House joined the Senate on Tuesday in approving an extension of a program established by George W. Bush to fight AIDS and other diseases across the world. The measure will now go to President Barack Obama.

By a voice vote, the House approved a bill that extends the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. Established by Bush in 2003, PEPFAR has been successful in fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, particularly in Africa. The program has focused billions of dollars in aid to developing countries, and currently supports nearly 6 million people receiving anti-retroviral drugs. The program has provided assistance to more than 46 million people overall, including orphans, vulnerable children and pregnant women and provided funding to AIDS research.

The legislation extending PEPFAR, which was first passed by the Senate on Monday, will also increase oversight of the Bush-era program, which had expired at the end of September. The measure passed by the House on Tuesday was backed by the chairman and ranking member of both the House and Senate committees overseeing the legislation. In the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Chairmen Bob Menendez, D-N.J. and ranking member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the bill would save lives and build on progress in the fight against AIDS.

In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel both backed the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that reauthorizing PEPFAR will cost about $15 million from 2014 through 2018, though that money would have to be approved in a separate funding bill. The cost is primarily for Inspectors General oversight of PEPFAR's various programs.

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