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Delayed Senate Vote on AIDS Bill Raises Issue of Abstinence

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed a vote scheduled for last Thursday on a bill that would provide funds to treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide. According to The Washington Times, the vote was delayed because the White House and other prominent Republicans felt that the bill did not adequately promote abstinence over condom use. The Bush Administration had requested that the bill be modeled after Uganda’s “Abstinence, Be Faithful, or Use Condoms” campaign, also known as “ABC,” which promotes abstinences as the most successful means for preventing AIDS. The Bush Administration hopes to make condom use a minor part of the bill, emphasizing the need for monogamy and abstinence and claiming that condoms should be used as a last resort, according to the Advocate.

The Advocate outlines proposed changes to the bill by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R- TN), including the establishment of an HIV notification program to inform women if their husbands have tested positive for HIV and more funding for abstinence programs. However, according to a report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the most effective component of the “ABC” campaign in Uganda has been the distribution and use of condoms, followed by the promotion of monogamy. The least successful aspect of the program has been the use of abstinence to prevent the transmission of AIDS.

There is also debate over how much money should go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. President Bush had requested only $200 million a year for the Fund as part of the $15 billion global AIDS plan announced in his State of the Union address. The House version of the bill to finance Bush’s plan includes up to $1 billion a year for the Fund, and the Senate version does not specify how much money would go to the Fund. The House bill, which would also circumvent the Global Gag Rule by allowing funding to go to organizations that provide family planning and abortion services or counseling in addition to HIV/AIDS programs, has also been delayed indefinitely, according to the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report.

LEARN MORE Chat with Asia Russell of the Health Global Access Project on March 26 at 3 p.m. EST, the last in a series of chats on HIV/AIDS for International Women’s Day

LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services.

Sources:

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report 3/20/03; Washington Times 3/20/03; The Advocate 3/21/03; AGI 10/2002

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