WASHINGTON - Today, President Bush called on Congress to double U.S. funding toward fighting the global AIDS pandemic to $30 billion through the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief for the first five years after he leaves office. President Bush first announced his plans to create PEPFAR, a five-year, $15 billion dollar initiative to combat AIDS worldwide, during his 2003 State of the Union Address. PEPFAR funding supports various HIV/AIDS programs which provide access to antiretroviral drugs, treatment and prevention in 15 focus countries in addition to many other countries hard-hit by the AIDS pandemic. The program is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2008.
"Twenty-six years after the first reported AIDS case in the U.S., HIV and AIDS continues to devastate communities both at home and abroad, and our nation's leadership must harness all possible resources to confront the epidemic," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Though the PEPFAR program has provided life-saving treatment for millions of people with HIV/AIDS worldwide, we continue to have grave concerns over the misguided restrictions on prevention funding. Our nation's experts agree that the abstinence earmark only exacerbates the challenges in providing effective and culturally appropriate prevention messages to stem the transmission of the epidemic. We urge Congress to lift these restrictions based purely on ideology and instead fund proven science-based prevention strategies."
Current law dictates that one-third of prevention funding through PEPFAR must teach exclusively abstinence only until marriage. A 2006 report from the General Accountability Office found that 17 of the 20 countries surveyed reported that the abstinence earmark "challenges their ability to develop interventions that are responsive to local epidemiology and social norms." Furthermore, the GAO reported that in order to comply with the abstinence earmark, many countries were forced to significantly cut funding for prevention efforts to reach those most at risk, including programs designed to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In 2007, the Institute of Medicine likewise criticized the abstinence earmark as well as the program's ban on funding needle-exchange programs as obstacles to the program's effectiveness.
Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Christopher Shays, R-Conn., have introduced the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007 (H.R. 1713), which would eliminate the abstinence-only earmark in PEPFAR.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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