Critics claim president continues to place ideology ahead of science by demanding one-third of funding go to abstinence education
President Bush called on Congress on Wednesday, May 30, to double funding toward fighting the global AIDS pandemic to $30 billion through the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the first five years after he leaves office.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, criticized the president’s program because it requires 33 percent of prevention funding to be designated for abstinence education.
“Twenty-six years after the first reported AIDS case in the U.S., HIV and AIDS continues to devastate communities both at home and abroad, and our nation’s leadership must harness all possible resources to confront the epidemic,” Solmonese said. “Though the PEPFAR program has provided life-saving treatment for millions of people with HIV/AIDS worldwide, we continue to have grave concerns over the misguided restrictions on prevention funding. Our nation’s experts agree that the abstinence earmark only exacerbates the challenges in providing effective and culturally appropriate prevention messages to stem the transmission of the epidemic. We urge congress to lift these restrictions based purely on ideology and instead fund proven science-based prevention strategies.”
Current law requires one-third of prevention funding through PEPFAR exclusively teach abstinence until marriage.
A report from the General Accountability Office revealed that 17 of the 20 countries surveyed noted the abstinence earmark hindered their efforts to fight the epidemic. The report also indicated that the abstinence earmark had forced many of the countries to cut funding for prevention efforts to those most at risk, including programs designed to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child.
The Institute of Medicine has also criticized the abstinence earmark and the program’s ban on funding needle exchange programs.
Representatives Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, and Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, this year introduced the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007. It would eliminate the abstinence earmark in PEPFAR.
President Bush first announced his plans to create PEPFAR, a five-year, $15 billion plan to combat AIDS worldwide during his 2003 State of the Union Address. PEPFAR funds various HIV/AIDS programs that provide access to antiretroviral drugs, treatment and prevention in 15 focus countries in addition to other countries hit hard by the AIDS pandemic.
The program is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2008.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 1, 2007.