At today’s House International Relations Committee markup, Representative Adam Smith (D – Wash.) supported a strong U.S. role in international AIDS prevention.

“Over 22 million people around the world have died of AIDS already, and some estimates say the world will see 100 million cases in just four years,” Smith said.  “The global AIDS epidemic is an extremely destabilizing and dangerous problem that can only be solved with strong U.S. leadership, broad international support, and scientifically-proven methods of prevention and treatment.”

The House International Relations Committee today approved the five-year, $15 billion AIDS package that President Bush requested in his January State of the Union address; however, the Committee and the White House have differences of opinion on how that money should be spent.

The Administration wants a smaller role for the United States in the U.N.-backed Global Fund to Combat AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and instead wants more unilateral AIDS assistance.

“We should support the multilateral organizations that are pooling money to help fight these devastating diseases,” Smith said.  “America needs to participate and lead in these global efforts instead of trying to go it alone.”

The Committee agreed and preserved the funding – up to $1 billion – for the Global Fund.

The Committee also rejected, with Smith’s support, attempts to take away the flexibility offered to local AIDS preventions efforts and instead push a one-size-fits-all agenda that emphasizes abstinence instead of other scientifically-proven forms of AIDS prevention.

Smith noted that the global AIDS crisis is not just a humanitarian issue; it is a national security issue.  “The AIDS crisis is one of the most destabilizing events in history,” he explained.  “Unstable countries, countries in which people have little hope for their future and thousands of children are orphaned each year, are countries where terrorism and extremist movements thrive.  American leadership in solving this crisis is in our own best interests, it’s the right thing to do, and I’ll continue fighting on this critical issue.”