Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Highlights Editorials, Op-Eds in Response to GAO Report on PEPFAR Funding
A Government Accountability Office report released last week says that the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator's mandates for how much President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-funded programs must spend promoting abstinence and faithfulness have caused confusion among many countries and undercut some HIV prevention programs. GAO for the report surveyed U.S. teams in the 15 PEPFAR target countries and five others that receive at least $10 million in PEPFAR funding to fight HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Some editorials and an opinion piece related to the GAO report are summarized below.
Louisville Courier-Journal: The Bush administration "should listen" to the findings of the recent GAO report and change its approach, a Courier-Journal editorial says. Many public health officials say that abstinence and fidelity programs are "essential to the strategy of reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS around the world, [b]ut there are other parts to the strategy," the editorial says, concluding, "The end of this epidemic is a long way off, but the key will be effectiveness, not ideology" (Louisville Courier-Journal, 4/7).
Minneapolis Star Tribune: The U.S. commitment to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic is "quite laudable," but Congress and the Bush administration "should not insist that abstinence and fidelity be such high priorities everywhere," a Star Tribune editorial says. The editorial notes that "[s]exual mores vary widely among cultures," adding, "In some, abstinence until marriage is a powerful requirement. In others, it is not quite that simple." The editorial concludes, "Common sense says that countries battling this virus and disease be given greater latitude to design programs that fit the [HIV/]AIDS challenge they confront" (Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/9).
Salt Lake Tribune: The GAO report is "long overdue," and "[w]e can only hope the report helps convince Congress and [President Bush] to let the hardest-hit countries, especially African nations devastated by the disease, decide how best to [use] the funds to fight it," a Tribune editorial says. "The current policy stubbornly promotes conservative Christian attitudes ... [p]reaching abstinence can do little to halt the spread of HIV in Africa when many people there don't understand the dangers of unprotected sex and contaminated needles and refuse testing because of the social stigma," the editorial says. It is "shameful" that HIV/AIDS continues to spread around the world, while the U.S. government "worries that distributing condoms without preaching abstinence is somehow un-Christian," the editorial concludes (Salt Lake Tribune, 4/10).
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: The Bush administration "talks a fairly reasonable game about a balanced strategy" for global HIV prevention, but the GAO report released on Tuesday shows that the U.S.'s "emphasis on promoting abstinence and fidelity" has "skew[ed] prevention from condom programs, which are cheap and effective," a Post-Intelligencer editorial says. "The GAO report is not the first indication of trouble resulting from the administration's political pandering," the editorial says, adding, "If there were plenty of money to treat and prevent [HIV/]AIDS, the abstinence obsession would make more sense." The editorial concludes, "[S]carce resources ought to be focused more clearly on saving lives, not reshaping morality to fit a red-states political agenda" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/7).
- Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle: While some say "'you can't legislate morality,' ... we try to do it all the time, and it's not a bad thing," but when different types of morality "get confused, really bad things start to happen," Jon Carroll, a Chronicle columnist writes in an opinion piece. The GAO report says that the emphasis on abstinence- and fidelity-based programs is not working, but some congressional Republicans say, "We believe in this program and it will work," Carroll writes, adding, "There doesn't seem to be a rational response to that" (Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/10).