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Bush’s overseas push for abstinence hinders AIDS

Bush’s overseas push for abstinence hinders AIDS

Abstinence spending requirement forces cuts in other proven HIV prevention programs.

According to a new report by the federal General Accounting Office, requirements that two thirds of U.S. money used to promote HIV prevention overseas go to abstinence programs are ineffective and are actually forcing some countries to scale back other prevention efforts that are proved to work. The GAO report says that to comply with the U.S. push for abstinence education, countries receiving money through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief have had to make cuts to HIV prevention programs that target youth, sex workers, couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative, and even mother-to-child prevention services.

The GAO surveyed 17 countries that receive U.S. AIDS money and found that in 10 of them mother-to-child transmission programs were affected by the abstinence requirement; all 10 requested and received exemptions from the U.S. requirement. The seven other countries also reported that their mother-to-child prevention programs were impacted, but they did not quality for exemptions and were forced to continue to spend two thirds of the U.S. prevention grants on education programs for abstinence and monogamy.

The report also showed that in eight of the countries, the U.S. requirement for abstinence education hindered condom programs already in place.

"This report confirms what we have been saying all along," Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, said in a statement. "There has been deep concern with this policy, from the European Union, United Nations officials, African experts, religious organizations, and others, and it has been fully justified. Lives are in the balance, and so we need Congress to step in quickly to fix this policy.

"Messages promoting abstinence and fidelity have a place in a comprehensive strategy, and condoms are not the only solution to AIDS," Zeitz adds. "But the U.S. approach is far from the 'balanced, effective' policy we were promised by President Bush." (The Advocate)

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