Senate Republicans question international HIV prevention strategies
Spurred by recent reports that unsafe medical procedures may be to blame for Africa's estimated 28 million HIV infections, Republicans on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Thursday questioned international AIDS prevention efforts that focus on sexual transmission of the virus, Reuters Health reports. The studies cited in the March issue of the International Journal of STD & AIDS claim that the spread of HIV has not followed a pattern consistent with a sexually transmitted disease, and the researchers conclude that two-thirds of the infections are likely due to reused hypodermic needles and contaminated blood products.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who called the hearing, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of sexual behavior-based prevention strategies in light of the research and accused the medical community of ignoring the study's findings. Other Republicans on the committee suggested that U.S. international AIDS funds should be shifted away from programs attempting to limit the number of infections spread through unprotected sex.
However, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services refuted the study findings during the committee meeting and backed statements by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization that maintain that up to 90% of all HIV infections are linked to sex. Health officials from Uganda testified at the hearing that their research also shows that only about 10% of HIV infections in the country are linked to medical procedures, with the rest occurring through unprotected sex.