Health Professionals Send Letter of Opposition To Bush Over Plans To Extend ‘Mexico City’ Policy To AIDS Funding
Health and human rights organization Physicians for Human Rights yesterday sent a letter to President Bush asking him to abandon plans to make organizations that wish to receive federal AIDS funding comply with the so-called "Mexico City" policy, which prohibits federal aid from going to groups that fund or promote abortion, according to a PHR release. PHR said that it has learned that a White House Executive Order on the policy is expected to be released "soon" (PHR release, 3/4). The policy -- which was originally implemented by President Reagan at a population conference in Mexico City in 1984, removed by President Clinton and reinstated by President Bush on the first day of his presidency -- "bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion, even with their own money, through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities." Under the new policy, outlined by a senior Bush administration official in a Feb. 11 memo to the State Department, social services groups that deal with abortion services would have to "administer AIDS programs separately from family planning" in order to receive funds from the administration's new AIDS initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/3).
"As health professionals with experience in prevention, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS, we strongly advise against placing such a bureaucratic burden on foreign nongovernmental organizations," the letter said, adding, "Requiring groups that offer significant HIV/AIDS prevention services who may also be using non-U.S. government funds to provide legal abortions or information about them, to duplicate their staff, facilities or administration is a potentially wasteful and burdensome requirement." The letter says that because health services are often scarce and difficult for poor women to access, "people should be encouraged to obtain prevention education and supplies wherever they are available." Furthermore, because of the intense stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, "prevention programs ... must be integrated into services that people are accustomed to accessing, including family planning and maternal health services." The letter concludes that the Mexico City policy "run[s] counter to best practice in HIV/AIDS prevention and general public health" (Letter text, 3/4). The letter is signed by more than 15 leading health care professionals, including Holly Atkinson, president of PHR; James Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; Allan Rosenfield, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University; Linda Rosenstock, dean of the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health; and Peter Lamptey, senior vice president of Family Health International (PHR release, 3/4).
PRI's "The World" yesterday reported on the administration's intentions of applying the Mexico City policy to international AIDS funding. The segment includes comments from Julia Ernst of the Center for Reproductive Rights, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Global AIDS Alliance Executive Director Paul Zeitz (McCleskey, "The World," PRI, 3/4). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online.