Global AIDS Bill Does Not ‘Adequately Prioritize’ Abstinence, Washington Times Opinion Piece Says
The global AIDS bill (HR 1298) currently being considered in the House does not "adequately prioritize abstinence" and therefore "falls short" of the "lofty goals" laid out in President Bush's AIDS initiative, William Bennett, former secretary of education, and Charles Colson, chair of Prison Fellowship Ministries and the Wilberforce Forum, write in a Washington Times opinion piece (Bennett/Colson, Washington Times, 4/29). The House International Relations Committee on April 2 approved 37-8 the bill, which was sponsored by committee chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight international AIDS. The bill would allocate $3 billion a year for five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Hyde's bill endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- which has had success in lowering AIDS prevalence rates in Uganda (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). Bennett and Colson support the ABC prevention model, but call for more focus on abstinence programs, adding, "condoms [alone] must no longer be considered first line of defense against HIV." They continue that the bill also does not provide "protection for faith-based organizations that would participate" in these programs. Faith-based groups, including Catholic missionaries, who currently care for 25% of AIDS patients worldwide, "not only have the compassion, but also much of the infrastructure, experience and knowledge that will be needed to carry out" HIV/AIDS programs, according to Bennett and Colson. Bennett and Colson add that the United States should exercise stricter control over the spending of global AIDS funds "through bilateral agreements ... rather than relying on international bureaucracies that are not accountable to the U.S. government." Bennett and Colson conclude that "[h]istory will judge" the United States by the "depth of our compassion to the vulnerable and the suffering" in the AIDS epidemic (Washington Times, 4/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.