Rep. Pitts ‘Badly Misrepresents’ USAID CORE Initiative, Letter to Editor Says
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Penn.) in a Washington Times opinion piece published last week "badly misrepresents" the USAID-funded Communities Responding to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Initiative, Pat Carey, senior vice president for programming of CARE USA, writes in a letter to the editor of the Washington Times (Carey, Washington Times, 3/29). Pitts on Thursday said that the five-year, $50 million CORE Initiative undermines President Bush's abstinence agenda by allocating money to groups that "buy into the 'safe sex' myth of battling AIDS" and do not espouse the ABC prevention method. While many HIV/AIDS programs have "focused primarily on management of the disease" and have failed to give "serious thought" to behavior change, the successful ABC policy of abstinence, be faithful, use condoms, adopted in Uganda in the late 1980s, focuses on "positive life choices" and has succeeded in helping HIV prevalence rates in that country to "plung[e]," Pitts said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/27). Evidence has shown that a "multifaceted approach" to HIV/AIDS prevention is successful, Carey writes, adding that the success of the ABC method in Uganda "lies not in the superiority of one campaign over another ... but in the value of building a consensus among different elements of a society around a single anti-HIV/AIDS message." The CORE Initiative will "bring together community organizations" from different perspectives to address the stigma associated with the disease and to prevent further transmission of the virus, Carey says, concluding that "every effective tool" must be used to fight the epidemic and that "[a]ttempts to limit the approaches on ideological grounds will cost lives" (Washington Times, 3/29).
'Comprehensive Approach' to HIV/AIDS Needed
The "behavior change" called for in Pitts' opinion piece "is only a minuscule portion of the behavior change that is needed," as many women risk contracting HIV due to their husband's behavior, "not their own," Adrienne Germain, president of the International Women's Health Coalition, writes in a Washington Times letter to the editor. The United States should fund programs that support the ABC approach but also those that promote behavioral change among men "so that they take responsibility for their own sexual behavior and do not resort to sexual coercion and violence," Germain says. Women will be better able to choose to follow the ABC method if they are able to make their own choices, she states, adding that AIDS programs should also address "beliefs and practices that violate the rights of females," such as poverty, child marriage and wife inheritance. Germain concludes that a "comprehensive approach" allowing for all of these issues is needed to ensure success in the fight against HIV/AIDS (Germain, Washington Times, 3/28).