U.S. Global AIDS Ambassador Dybul Says ABC Prevention Model Might Result in Increased Respect for Women; Representatives Question PEPFAR Abstinence Funding Requirements
Mark Dybul, ambassador for the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and other HIV/AIDS officials on Wednesday at a House Committee on Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations hearing said the HIV prevention strategy known as ABC -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful and use condoms -- might be the best way to encourage men to treat women better, Reuters reports. "We are teaching young men a lot of important lessons about respecting women," Dybul said, adding, "If men learn ABC, if men practice ABC, gender issues become easier to deal with." According to some HIV/AIDS experts, women often are unable to convince their male partners to remain faithful or use condoms. According to Reuters, 60% of new HIV cases in sub-Saharan Africa occur among women, and statistics from CARE indicate that 80% of women newly infected with HIV are monogamous (Fox, Reuters, 9/6).
PEPFAR Abstinence Funding Requirements
Also at the hearing, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said abstinence funding requirements under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are politically motivated and not based on science, the Oakland Tribune reports (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 9/7). By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that countries receive through PEPFAR -- a $15 billion, five-year program -- must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). "Do we neglect evidence-based public health prevention strategies in order to satisfy an arbitrary ideological prevention policy?" Lee said, adding, "The very fact that the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator allows U.S. country teams to seek an exemption from complying with the earmark indicates that they recognize it is a burden." Lee in June introduced a bill (HR 5674) to repeal PEPFAR's abstinence-only spending requirements (Oakland Tribune, 9/7). According to CQ Today, Dybul "dismissed criticisms of the earmark," adding that funding for prevention has increased and ABC reduces the risk of HIV transmission (Blinkhorn, CQ Today, 9/7). "The data for ABC are overwhelming," Dybul said (Reuters, 9/6). According to a report released in April by the Government Accountability Office, OGAC's mandates for how much PEPFAR-funded programs must spend promoting abstinence and faithfulness have caused confusion among many countries and undercut some other HIV-prevention programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/5). Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chair of the subcommittee, said PEPFAR's program of "teaching a different behavior" is "logic[al]," but "there is no logic ... that says one-third [of PEPFAR funds] should go that way" (Reuters, 9/6).
Transcripts of statements and testimonies from the subcommittee hearing are available online.