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State Department
reports to Congress on PEPFAR

State Department
reports to Congress on PEPFAR

"People are alive today because the United States has turned its words into action," according to the State Department's second annual report to Congress on the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. "Prevention is the first line of defense," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said upon the report's release this week.

U.S. spending on PEPFAR this year is $3.2 billion, up from $2.8 billion a year ago. Money to promote correct and consistent condom use was $65.7 million last year, an increase of $20.5 million over 2004. Funds to push abstinence and fidelity also rose, increasing by $12.3 million to $75.6 million last year. President Bush has asked Congress for more than $4 billion for PEPFAR next year.

At a press conference, U.S. deputy global AIDS coordinator Mark Dybul said faith-based groups receive about 20% of the money. Many of these groups advocate abstinence and not contraception.

According to the report, about 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-HIV drugs when the president launched PEPFAR in 2003. Two years later, 395,000 people in 12 nations in the region are receiving U.S.-financed treatment.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who coauthored the legislation that set up PEPFAR, said, "While this report shows some advances, the rate of progress is inadequate to meet either the needs for treatment and prevention or the commitment we set out. The sense of urgency is missing."

"HIV prevention policies should not be based on ideology," Lee said, adding that the U.S. government "shouldn't be deciding who uses condoms and who doesn't." (AP)

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