U.K. Rejects U.S. Abstinence Policy for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Supports Generic Antiretroviral Drug Use
U.K. International Development Minister Gareth Thomas on Thursday at the XV International AIDS Conference publicly rejected he calls the Bush administration's support for abstinence as the "best way" to curb the spread of HIV, London's Guardian reports. Thomas also said that Britain does not support U.S. policies concerning generic antiretroviral drugs, according to the Guardian (Boseley, Guardian, 7/16). The United States has been criticized throughout the conference for its support of funding for abstinence-only education as well as its policies on generic antiretrovirals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). The law (HR 1298) authorizing the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief endorses the "ABC" HIV prevention model -- which stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, use Condoms -- and specifies that one-third of the bill's HIV/AIDS prevention funding should be used for abstinence programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). Thomas said, "We work with the Americans in a whole variety of ways, but we have a difference of views on abstinence-only campaigns." He added that Britain would continue to fund the United Nations Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the groups' "excellent HIV, sexual and reproductive health work" (Guardian, 7/16). Last week, U.K. officials pledged $214 million to UNAIDS and UNFPA for HIV/AIDS and women's reproductive health initiatives in developing countries. About $66 million will go to UNAIDS over the next four years and approximately $148 million will be allocated for UNFPA over the same four-year period, according to Hilary Benn, secretary of staff for the country's Department for International Development. The funding represents a more than 20% increase in the country's UNFPA contribution and triples the country's contribution to UNAIDS. According to Benn, sexual and reproductive health are "inextricably linked" to AIDS. "By taking action on one, we know we are also helping to tackle the other," Benn said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/8).
Condoms, European Union
Thomas said that although the U.K. government believes that "encouraging a delay in the start of sexual activity has its place in countries' responses [to the HIV/AIDS epidemic], fundamentally you have to recognize the reality that people are able to make their own decisions about their sex lives," adding, "We need to understand that reality and increase access to condoms" (Hirschler, Reuters, 7/15). Thomas added, "Simply talking about abstinence and fidelity is not going to [curb the spread of HIV] on its own" (Dyer, Financial Times, 7/16). Dr. Lieve Fransen, head of the human and social development unit at the European Commission and the top E.U. AIDS official attending the International AIDS Conference, said that "questioning the value" of condom use as a prevention method is a "backward step" in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, according to Reuters. She added, "I think reinterpretation of science and reinterpretation of messages is not very useful. Saying one day that condoms don't work when we know that they work, if you use them, is not the right message." International AIDS Society President and conference Co-Chair Joep Lange said, "One simple message repeated by scientists and leaders at the conference is that condom use is one of the least expensive, most cost effective methods for preventing HIV transmission" (Reuters, 7/15). Tobias earlier at the conference said that although the United States is not against condom use, Uganda's "ABC" prevention campaign shows that condoms are not the only effective means of preventing HIV transmission. "Abstinence works, being faithful works, condoms work," Tobias said, adding, "Each has its place" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14).
kaisernetwork.org webcast of Tobias' speech, as well as an exclusive kaisernetwork.org interview with Tobias is available online.
APM's "Marketplace Morning Report" on Thursday reported on criticisms at the conference of the United States' defense of pharmaceutical patents. The segment includes comments from Global AIDS Alliance Policy Director David Gartner and Tobias (Palmer, "Marketplace Morning Report," APM, 7/15). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.