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U.S. push for
abstinence blamed for South African program’s cut in
funding

U.S. push for
abstinence blamed for South African program’s cut in
funding

Last month the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria announced it had scrapped a planned $56 million grant to loveLife, South Africa's national youth HIV program, citing governance and implementation issues. The move, said loveLife director David Harrison, will take away 30% of the program's funding and hurt the 500 teen clinics it uses to teach HIV prevention.

Harrison said he believes the decision was prompted by U.S.-supported abstinence-only programs and reluctance to support efforts that supply condoms. "Obviously, the strength of conservative ideologies [is] spilling into the field of HIV and HIV prevention, and it has direct impact on programs like loveLife," he said. "The U.S. has been consistently against the continuation of funding to loveLife through that process and made its position very clear to other [Global Fund] board members."

But Global Fund spokesman Jon Liden rejected that idea. "The U.S. played a very passive role in this whole issue. This was a program that was not sufficiently--despite being given more chances than any other program so far--able to follow the directions and conditions that the Global Fund board gave," said Liden.

As one of South Africa's highest-profile HIV interventions, loveLife has not been without controversy. Its billboards showing naked bodies in suggestive positions shocked many South African parents. Critics have accused loveLife of being overly provocative and disconnected from youth outside urban areas.

The funding decision was not a comment on the efficacy of loveLife's sexual health programs but was based on concerns "that it was hard to say that the [loveLife] activities that were funded specifically contributed to reduction in HIV prevalence," said Liden. (Reuters)

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