‘Mexico City’ Policy Will ‘Hobble’ HIV/AIDS Programs Where They Are Needed Most, Lancet Editorial Says
Legislation that would authorize President Bush's proposed increase in global HIV/AIDS funding to $15 million over five years is being delayed by the "administration's antiabortion policies," as lawmakers consider whether or not to extend the so-called "Mexico City" policy to those funds, according to a Lancet editorial (Lancet, 3/15). 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 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 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 programs in order to receive funds from the administration's new AIDS initiative (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6). If the Mexico City policy is applied to the funding, it "will hobble programs that are in the best position to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic: the local clinics that provide family planning and maternal health services to women," the editorial continues. Requiring these "cash-strapped" programs to create separate HIV/AIDS programs is "unreasonable" and to "deny these women the chance to learn about HIV/AIDS and receive care in a confidential setting in their regular clinics in which they are comfortable with health care providers whom they trust is unfair," according to the editorial. In addition, exposing women to the "risk of the stigma of AIDS ... is cruel," the Lancet says. The editorial concludes that local clinics "are clearly essential in the fight against the epidemic. Imposing onerous restrictions on these programs, at a time when the epidemic is taking 8,000 lives and causing 13,000 new infections a day, is hardly a policy that can be considered 'pro-life'" (Lancet, 3/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.