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
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.