AP/Yahoo! News Examines PEPFAR Grants Given to Religious, Nontraditional Groups
The AP/Yahoo! News on Monday examined the Bush administration's "outreach to nontraditional AIDS players" -- including religious organizations and local groups -- in distributing grants for the five-year, $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. According to State Department estimates, religious organizations accounted for 23% of all groups that received PEPFAR funds last year, and about 80% of grant recipients were based in the country where the program was implemented. The administration is reserving $200 million for groups with little or no history of receiving government grants, and USAID recently declined to renew funding for two large consortiums that fight HIV/AIDS, the CORE Initiative and the IMPACT Project, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. A majority of PEPFAR funding goes to HIV/AIDS treatment programs in the 15 countries the plan targets, but Congress has mandated that at least one-third of funding for HIV prevention programs go toward abstinence messages, according to the AP/Yahoo! News. Groups providing abstinence and fidelity messages do not have to distribute condoms as a means of prevention, but groups that distribute condoms with PEPFAR money must incorporate abstinence and fidelity messages in their programs. Some congressional conservatives, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), wrote a letter to Bush and USAID claiming that some of the large PEPFAR grant recipients were "pro-[commercial sex work], pro-abortion and not committed enough to abstinence priorities," according to the AP/Yahoo! News. However, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the conservatives' "attack is based on a narrow, ideological viewpoint that condemns condoms and frames any attempt to reach out to high-risk populations as an endorsement of behaviors that these critics oppose." Deputy U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul said the Bush administration is trying to shift grant money toward locally owned groups, adding that claims of political motivation in grant distribution are "inaccurate and offensive to people doing this work" (Beamish, AP/Yahoo! News, 1/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.