AIDS Funding: A Good Idea Gone Miserably Bad?

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When President Bush asked Congress in January to commit $15 billion over the next five years to turn the tide against AIDS in Africa, many thought it was perhaps the boldest gesture of compassionate conservatism ever expressed a noble use of taxpayer funds to help some 30 million afflicted people. But the legislation drafted in a Republican House and Senate, no less is a far cry from the president’s intentions and could potentially worsen, rather than quell the disease.

Pro-family groups have bristled at both House and Senate bills, claiming that, if passed, the legislation would balloon the budgets of government agencies and open wider the floodgates of condom distribution.

They are right.

Current U.S. policy recognizes the ABC model (Abstinence before marriage, Be faithful to one partner, Condoms as a last resort), which has contributed to the enormous decline of AIDS in Uganda.

According to The Washington Times, AIDS prevalence among pregnant women in Uganda was 21 percent in 1991 and 6 percent in 2001. More than 60 percent of Ugandan boys ages 13-16 reported being sexually active in 1994. But that number plummeted two years later to 15 percent and by 2001 had fallen to 5 percent. Consequently, the HIV infection rates fell in Uganda from 18 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 1999.

Meanwhile, other African nations, deluged with condoms, still experience monumental HIV infection rates.

The White House is relying heavily on partnerships with faith-based and community organizations to shoulder the ‘A’ and ‘B’, since they already have successful abstinence-related programs in place. But huge changes to the AIDS legislation are imperative – otherwise these groups will strongly oppose the bill.

Currently, ‘A’ and ‘B’ have taken a back seat to ‘C’- Abstinence and monogamy have been tossed in for good measure but they must take priority for the Uganda model to work; otherwise USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) would garner exorbitant funding for “bulk purchases ofcondomsas well as education and training,” according to the House bill. There is no conscience protection for faith-based groups that oppose condom distribution, eliciting fears that in post-Bush administrations, these organizations won’t be allowed to participate unless they distribute condoms. A third concern is that AIDS funding will go to groups that are pushing to legalize prostitution. The Far Left continues to ignore studies like the one presented recently at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which showed that 89 percent of prostitutes want to escape their profession but had no other options for survival, 60 percent have been raped, 70 percent were physically assaulted and 68 percent met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Handing prostitutes condoms would be like placing a Band-aid on a cancer patient. What these women need is bold assistance to help them out of prostitution. Instead of the president’s requested $200 million for 2004’s budget, the House bill requests as much as $1 billion be earmarked for the Global Fund, which has no accountability to the taxpayer. In contrast, the Senate version of the bill requested a blank check – “such sums as may be necessary” – and roped in a myriad of government agencies, ensuring that bureaucratic hands would intercept the millions promised to Africa.

Dr. Anne Peterson, director of global health at USAID, has said, “We cannot win this war against AIDS without much broader partnerships with faith and community-based organizations.”

If Dr. Peterson is serious, then much more must be done to this Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Otherwise, we’re all just kidding ourselves.

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