President Bill Clinton came under fire on Monday by AIDS activists for de-emphasizing the impact of PEPFAR’s abstinence-until-marriage prevention policies. President Clinton stated:
As I understand the law, and I think I understand it, 30 percent of the money appropriated by the United States Congress for PEPFAR has to be spent in some form or fashion on abstinence programs. Now, 70 percent of what they appropriate is still a whole lot of money and still is more than most other countries appropriate.
While it is true that the United States is the largest bi-lateral donor for global AIDS, it doesn’t justify a portion of the money being allocated to ideological, ineffective prevention policies.
Clinton tried to clarify his remarks on Tuesday, saying he is firmly opposed to abstinence-only programs:
When I hear people pontificating about AIDS thinking that we can do everything through abstinence, I think they don’t understand what women are up against. ... The administration should be persuaded to move the guidelines to present abstinence in a more comprehensive framework.
So far the conference has been the Bill and Bill show with President Clinton and Bill Gates dominating the international media coverage. There is a risk, though, that the message portrayed to the rest of the world is that with all the celebrity power, the AIDS response is under control. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. One of the AIDS community’s most important tools to fighting the AIDS pandemic, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, is facing a desperate resource gap. Clinton called for higher contributions to the fund from governments, saying that “no bilateral program, no matter how impactful, can take the place of the Global Fund.”
The Global Fund was created in 2002 by the international community as an innovative public/private partnership to get money to countries fast. In just four years, the Global Fund has committed over $5.5 billion to 132 countries, but faces a $500 million shortfall this year and a $1.7 billion shortfall for next year. This week, AIDS activists from all over the world have been strategizing about how to make the G-8 countries that are lagging far behind contribute their fair share. Although Canada is the host of the International AIDS Conference, its prime minister made no new financial pledges to the fund nor has he attended the conference.
As if Canada wasn’t embarrassed enough, today conference attendees learned that Canadian customs seized and detained 1000 packs of mosquito nets and condoms en route to the conference on the grounds that the nets contain pesticides that should not be imported to the country. The nets and condoms were to be distributed to African women attending the conference for them to take back for use in their own homes. Apparently, it isn’t enough that the Canadian International Development Agency sends the very same mosquito nets to African countries.
Today the Bills finally left and the second day of the conference concluded with two and a half full days remaining. These conferences are marathons, with sessions starting at 7 a.m. and strategy meetings going late into the night.
Throughout it all, though, is a sense of solidarity and community between people from developed and developing countries who have dedicated their lives to fighting AIDS. That makes the 15-hour days worth it.
| Wednesday, August 16, 2006 8:50 AM