Bush Administration’s AIDS Policies Have ‘Damaged U.S. Alliance’ With International AIDS Groups, Opinion Piece Says
Although the United States is contributing more money to the fight against AIDS than any other country, the Bush administration has "repeatedly overstated" U.S. financial contributions and "damaged the U.S. alliance with international agencies fighting AIDS" by creating the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- a "controversial strategy" with its own "separate set of rules," freelance writer Erika Casriel says in a perspective piece in the August issue of American Prospect. The world's "battle plan" for AIDS includes the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as "financier and monitor," the World Health Organization as "technical adviser" and UNAIDS as "coordinator," she writes. However, because the Global Fund and other agencies promote a "bottom-up" approach in which local stakeholders develop plans for scaling up health systems, the Bush administration has insisted on "working alone, ... trying to create an AIDS program that is managed from inside the Beltway," Casriel says. This split with the global AIDS community is "almost entirely ideological ... driven by the 'pro-family' agenda of the American right," Casriel says.
The administration disagrees with the international community over the effectiveness of condoms and the role of faith-based organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Casriel says, adding that Bush's reinstatement of the so-called "Mexico City Policy" -- which bars U.S. money from international groups that support abortion through direct services, counseling or lobbying activities -- has "impeded the fight against AIDS by forcing the closure of many clinics" in developing nations. In addition, the administration's "pro-family" agenda has influenced its decision to provide federal funding to abstinence-only prevention programs and "encourag[ed] evangelical groups with no Africa experience to seek grants," Casriel says. The "final point of tension" between international AIDS groups and the Bush administration is the administration's avoidance of using generic antiretroviral drugs, Casriel says. In addition to increasing funding and collaborating with international donors, if the Bush administration is "serious about fighting AIDS in Africa," it should consider canceling debts in developing nations to allow debtor governments to spend more on hospitals and schools, Casriel says, concluding that without such measures, the "situation remains bleak for AIDS workers in Africa" (Casriel, American Prospect, 8/1).