The Bush Administration released its five-year global AIDS strategy yesterday. Women’s health advocates argue that the plan fails to address the needs of women and girls, even though women and girls make up the majority of those infected with HIV/AIDS. According to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, the plan does not offer any concrete strategies for addressing factors that increase women’s susceptibility to HIV such as violence and sexual coercion.
Women’s rights groups are concerned about several aspects of the global plan to fight HIV/AIDS. The plan states that the first $350 million in grants will go to religious groups and humanitarian organizations to fight HIV/AIDS; however, religious groups sometimes endorse early marriage for girls, which is seen to be one of the reasons women and girls are contracting the disease at a much faster rate. The US is also making abstinence the main prevention strategy when in most of the targeted countries young girls are already married, are sexually active, and often have husbands who are not monogamous. In addition, the plan does not mention supporting existing female-controlled prevention methods such as expanded access to the female condoms to reduce women’s risk of HIV.
According to the New York Times, AIDS advocacy groups are criticizing the Bush Administration for cutting back the US contribution to the Global AIDS fund by 64 percent. Congress allocated $547 million for the fund in 2004; the Administration’s 2005 budget request only called for $200 million.
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