Abstinence-Only Advocate to Head Global AIDS Initiative

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of former Eli Lilly CEO Randall Thomas to head the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator in the State Department. AIDS advocacy groups raised concerns that because of the his ties to the pharmaceutical industry he will not promote affordable AIDS drugs in poor countries.

In addition, according to Health Global Access Project (Health GAP), Tobias claimed that the reduction of HIV prevalence in Uganda was a result of pushing the ABC (Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Condoms) in priority order. Health GAP reports that independent health experts argue that Uganda’s success was not a result of pushing abstinence over condoms. Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), said that Bush administration efforts “to portray Uganda’s approach as a one-dimensional strategy [serve] a narrow ideological agenda, in which public health and scientific evidence are virtually irrelevant.” The plan to make abstinence-only strategies central to the fight to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS “will unquestionably lead to a more illness and death,” said Jacobson.

If confirmed, the Indianapolis Star reports that Tobias will be in charge of implementing the initiative to prevent 7 million people from becoming infected with the HIV virus, treat 2 million infected people with drugs to prolong their lives, and take care of 10 million of the infected and children orphaned by the disease. The new Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator will oversee United States assistance to fight HIV/AIDS and coordinate the agencies and departments that will deliver the aid.

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Indianapolis Star 10/1/03; Kaiser Network 10/03/03, 10/01/03; Health GAP 10/2/03

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