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by Susie Contreras, Lifetyle editor

 

The plan outlined specifically its initiative to prevent seven million new infections, treat two million existing infections, and care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans. According to Randal Tobias, Bush’s appointed U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, who administers AIDS relief, Congress has, as of July 14, allocated $5.2 billion. In addition to the funds already allocated, Tobias said that as of this year 235,000 people are receiving anti-retroviral drug treatment, 230,000 of them in Africa. Tobias plans to reach two million people by 2008.
So far so good.

So what are AIDS activist objecting to now? Like most of Bush’s proposals that draw controversy, PEPFAR has been criticized for giving more money to faith-based groups with conservative leanings. Activists, who serve a watch-dog function in terms of government funding, have already stopped Bush from implementing his “Global Gag Rule” in PEPFAR.

The “Global Gag Rule“, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” would have prevented money from being given to organizations who perform or support abortions.

Now the fight is on again against prostitution. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun by David Kohn, conservatives are now trying to deny federal funding to organizations that have ties with sex workers and groups trying to teach prostitutes about the dangers of unsafe sex. According to Kohn, a bill was recently passed in the House of Representatives that will require all organizations receiving funds to give details of dealings with prostitutes.

I don’t see anything wrong with groups keeping records on what they are doing, who they are helping, and where our money is going, but I highly doubt that our government wants to see these records merely for information purposes. What they plan to do with this information is what worries activists.

No one can argue that HIV/AIDS rates among prostitutes are high and that the transmission rate is high for their clients. By specifically targeting organizations who deal with these groups, we are keeping a high-risk segment of the population from receiving education about AIDS prevention and treatment. And activists aren’t the only ones criticizing Bush’s agenda.

In May, Brazil refused $40 million in funding from the United States because it was unwilling to denounce prostitution in order to be eligible to receive the funds. Brazil can be criticized for turning down large sums of money which could have gone to help infected people, or they could be lauded for refusing to accept money with strings attached. For Brazil, and other countries with high prostitution rates, it makes sense that they are not willing to ignore large segments of the population just because they don’t share similar views. Instead they are trying to work with them to bring down the number of HIV/AIDS infections.

Isn’t the goal to stop AIDS from spreading and to treat people already infected?

Conservatives argue that by giving money to organizations who work with prostitutes we are telling all sex workers that we fully support prostitution. I don’t agree. I think that by taking away funds from these groups we are telling sex workers that they don’t deserve to get treatment or education about a disease that is a very real threat to their lives and the lives of their customers. You don’t need to agree with someone’s work to try to save their lives.

According to The Wall Street Journal, that is exactly what Bush believes. Not only do organizations have to object to prostitution, but Bush can and has cut funds from groups that do not agree with his views on abstinence and drug use.

If Bush is really trying to help fight AIDS globally, he needs to be willing to work with the countries he is trying to help, not shove his views down their throats and then take away funding when his views aren’t shared by others. It would be like donating blood but only allowing your blood to be used by people with blue eyes, when a green-eyed person in the next room is dying from blood loss.
 
 
 

 

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