The protesters who occupied House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office may or may not be charged, but the bill they advocate for is something we should protect. According to them, the PEPFAR program has provided life-saving treatment to millions of people, and they are correct. This bill has been critical in reducing new infections of the disease. I am not writing to share my opinion on their activism or how they should be treated. I want to share my thoughts on the legislation they were obviously passionate about.
Foreign aid, like PEPFAR, is critical for maintaining the overall health and stability of our own nation. The fact is, HIV/AIDS still claims millions of lives across the globe, the United States included. How can we expect to eradicate a disease in our own country if we cease to address it globally? In a way, sharing the wealth of our access to effective treatment benefits everyone on multiple fronts.
This brings me to my second point: the impact of diplomacy efforts on national security. Providing aid through PEPFAR not only slows down the spread of disease, it improves foreign relations. As noted by the National Security Advisory Council in 2019, non-military foreign aid strengthens our allies and fights the spread of poverty and disease.
I believe a clean 5-year reauthorization of PEPFAR is reasonable and will still leave billions of dollars for the government to allocate elsewhere.