Clinton testimony short on details about global health budget requests

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U.S. Secretary of State testifies Tuesday in front of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified Tuesday in front of the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee in defense of President Obama’s proposal for national security and foreign policy priorities in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 international affairs budget, including U.S. investments in global health.

“Through the Global Health Initiative, we are consolidating programs, increasing efficiencies and shifting responsibilities to host countries,” Clinton said in her opening remarks. Reference to funding for HIV programs did not make it into her oral comments, only her written statement. “By driving down costs we will be able to provide life-saving HIV treatment for six million people by the end of 2013 without additional spending — accelerating our progress toward President Obama’s vision of an AIDS-free generation,” her statement said.

Although Clinton described a scenario of flat-funding for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program, the president’s FY 2013 budget aims to cut the program by nearly $543 million – making it more than challenging to reach Obama’s goal of putting an additional two million people on treatment in less than two years.

The president’s proposed $1.65 billion funding request for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria puts the U.S. on the path to meet its pledge to commit $4 billion to the multilateral organization over three years but the Secretary made no mention of the Global Fund in either her oral or written remarks.

HIV/AIDS was not discussed at the hearing, but there was some discussion of  increasing countries’ own health system capacity, targeting U.S. resources where they are needed most, with an emphasis on maternal and child health.

When asked a question by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) about improving access to family planning services but not abortions, Clinton said the State Department works to stay focused on improving maternal and child health, and there is no doubt at all that family planning services are essential to improving both. She added that family planning has the potential to decrease unintended pregnancies in the developing world by 25 percent, and that numerous studies have shown that the incidence of abortion decreases when women have access to contraception.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) questioned the secretary on efforts at the State Department to reach orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) that are out of family care (on the street, in institutions, etc.), and how they are working to connect them with permanent loving and protective families.

Clinton responded that while they are working with other nations to do more themselves to take care of OVC, that by working to improve adoption systems and out-of-home care for OVC, they placed more than 9,000 children in homes through inter-country adoptions last year.

Clinton will testify Wednesday in front of the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.

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