WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today reaffirmed his commitment to the global effort against HIV/AIDS as he departs on a congressional delegation trip for Africa. The members traveling with Senator Inhofe are Congressmen Aderholt (R-AL), Miller (R-FL), and Neugebauer (R-TX).
“Today, as we mark the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, we acknowledge how far we still have to go to heal the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Senator Inhofe said. “World AIDS Day brings aid and awareness to the issue, and this year specifically encourages leaders to ‘take the lead’ to stop AIDS from destroying their countries. This week, I will be traveling to several African nations meeting with key African leaders who are on the front lines in fighting HIV/AIDS in their countries.
“I will meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini who has worked in combating HIV/AIDS in Uganda by instituting prevention programs particularly concerning mother-to-child transmission, along with recently launching a partnership program that targets at-risk groups such as refugees, internally displaced people, disabled, and those that are ‘hard to reach.’
“I am going to meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and First Lady Azeb Mesfin who have also been very involved in fighting the disease. First Lady Mesfin is known for her aggressive work to teach rural Ethiopians about the issues of HIV and advocating for more women’s rights. She started the organization ‘Ethiopian Coalition of Women against HIV/AIDS’ and continues to work closely with community leaders to ensure the rights of women and fight against harmful traditional practices and HIV/AIDS.
“I look forward to meeting with these leaders who understand that finding a way to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS is essential to bringing stability and development to the region. I will also reaffirm my pledge to carry their stories back to Washington and make sure that the spotlight is not taken off of our obligation to show compassion and aid to those who need it most.”
Congressman Robert Aderholt said: “The Bush Administration has worked very hard to help people living with HIV/AIDS within the US and abroad. The United States has devoted record-levels of support to AIDS education, treatment and prevention in Africa, and the US is the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria since 2001. I anticipate the opportunity to discuss the progress in the global fight against AIDS with leaders of the African countries we are visiting and I hope that the US continues our support of Africa in the fight against this horrible disease.”
Senator Inhofe’s work in Africa has revolved around his senior position on the Senate Armed Services Committee and building global partnerships through security cooperation efforts, but it has also been a personal mission. His compassion and heart for this extraordinary and often overlooked continent keep him returning to fight for their aid, build relationships between adversaries within and among the nations, and ensure them that they have not been forgotten in America. He has traveled to dozens of African countries developing relationships with people from all walks of life, from Prime Ministers to peasants and everyone in-between. He normally visits 5 or 6 countries on each trip.
In addition to meeting with African leaders on the economic and social challenges that they face, Senator Inhofe will look into the newly launched USAFRICOM. He fully supported and has been instrumental in the formation of the African Brigades, the African Union’s regional military standby brigades and the development of USAFRICOM as a way to combat the spread of terrorism in vulnerable regions.