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Bush Administration Urged to Implement HIV/AIDS Initiative without Strings Attached

Statement of Nancy Northup, President, Center for Reproductive Rights

"Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $15 billion HIV/AIDS plan aimed at combating the AIDS pandemic internationally over the next five years. We applaud the House's decision because U.S. financial commitment to providing access to effective prevention, treatment, and care for people living with HIV/AIDS in the world's poorest countries is a moral imperative. But we are troubled by the strings that Congress and the Bush Administration appear poised to attach."

"The House bill requires that one-third of the funds be set aside to promote sexual abstinence before marriage. This limitation ties the hands of organizations on the frontlines and should not be included in the Senate's version. In countries the U.S. programs will target, women's and girls' lack of access to equal education and economic opportunities often means that they end up having sex with infected men, with no real choice to 'abstain.' However, under the proposed restrictions currently under discussion, the clinics to which these women and their partners turn for male or female condoms may be unable to dispense them if they accept the U.S. funds."

"According to the April 29th New York Times, 'Mr. Bush chose what his aides described as a compromise, which was to allow an international organization to receive American AIDS money as long as its abortion and family planning programs were conducted and financed separately.'"

"President Bush: this is not a compromise. This is an act that would undermine the work of the very groups most able to prevent and treat this terrible disease. Such strings would require clinics in Africa and the Caribbean to open separate facilities for family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment - a step that would be economically impractical, as well as dangerous for patients. Some of the very best non-governmental organization (NGO) initiatives that provide comprehensive reproductive health services under one roof - access to HIV counseling and condoms, to family planning, and to maternal health care - could be excluded from U.S. funding. The trend in providing integrated services did not take hold by accident, but through the agreement of the international community and health experts that this is most effective way to provide reproductive and sexual health services to women."

"President Bush, this proposed bill demonstrates America's commitment to prevent, treat, and defeat the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS. It should also demonstrate America's understanding that this can only be done effectively if doctors are allowed to provide comprehensive counseling, preventive and treatment services. We urge you not to attach dangerous strings to the AIDS initiative by preventing organizations that offer integrated services from receiving funding."