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State Department withdraws funding for overseas AIDS program

State Department withdraws funding for overseas AIDS program

The State Department announced Tuesday that it is withdrawing funding for an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program for African and Asian refugees because one of the groups that runs the program has been accused of supporting forced abortions and sterilization practices in China, The New York Times reports. The program provides HIV/AIDS counseling and supports health care services for thousands of individuals in several countries, including Angola, Congo, Rwanda, and Eritrea. About $1 million in U.S. funding was pulled from the program because one of the partners, United Kingdom-based Marie Stopes International, which also provides family planning counseling and abortion services in addition to HIV/AIDS programs, works as a partner in China with the United Nations Population Fund. The Bush administration in July 2002 pulled $34 million in funding from UNPF, saying the U.N. agency supports the "one-child" policy in China that has led to forced abortions and sterilization of women after having one child. Although State Department officials say they have no proof that Marie Stopes International is involved with such activities, the department opted to revoke the organization's funding because of concerns that the agency's work supports the Chinese government's "one-child" policy. AIDS activists were incensed at the announcement, calling the State Department's decision a way to placate anti-abortion factions in the Bush administration and further proof that the Administration is injecting conservative ideology into grant-making decisions. The six remaining partners in the HIV/AIDS program--International Rescue Committee, CARE, the American Refugee Committee, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, John Snow International, and Columbia University's Department of Population and Family Health--rejected a State Department offer to continue to receive funding if they disassociate themselves with Marie Stopes International. "We were disappointed that for reasons of solidarity with Marie Stopes they should refuse our money," said a State Department spokesman. "We had hoped they would show more humanitarian statesmanship than that." The groups said they refused to break ties with Marie Stopes over "baseless accusations."

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