Moscow City Duma Members Say U.S.-Funded AIDS Prevention Programs ‘Morally Unconscionable’
Sixteen members of the Moscow City Duma -- the city's lower house of parliament -- in a letter sent on Oct. 8 to Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the city that only promote safe sex could "encourag[e] young women to choose prostitution as a career," which is "morally unconscionable," the Washington Times reports (Harper, Washington Times, 10/31). There are approximately 1.5 million HIV-positive people in Russia -- about 1% of the country's population -- and the number could quadruple to seven million in the next five years, according to health officials. Although the AIDS epidemic initially affected mainly injection drug users, the disease spread into the general population two years ago. In 2002, approximately one in eight new HIV infections was sexually transmitted, up from one in 25 two years ago. The Russian government currently spends $38 million annually on HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/16).
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The letter said, "[W]e find ourselves under pressure from the United States government-funded 'harm reduction' projects that distribute condoms and sex education materials that aim to reduce HIV/AIDS among drug-addicted prostitutes while lobbying in favor of legalized prostitution," adding, "It is up to all of us, no matter what our nationality, to see that young people everywhere grow up with good moral values, strong spiritual values and a sense of responsibility." The letter also called for Frist and Hastert to "apply the same standards to your foreign social policy in our country as you do your own," adding, "If a policy is not acceptable in America, please do not export it to us." Frist spokesperson Nick Smith said, "We are talking with the folks at USAID to evaluate the concerns expressed in the letter." The CDC and USAID will spend $4.3 million on Russian AIDS prevention efforts this year, according to the Times (Washington Times, 10/31).