The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill authorizing $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, with a last-minute amendment requiring a third of the money to go towards abstinence and monogamy programs. The bill also allows family planning organizations to receive funds for HIV/AIDS programs as long as their activities involving abortion are financed and run separately, according to the Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Other amendments that were approved in the bill include allowing funds to go to religious groups that object to condom use and calling for educating men and boys about gender equality.
The House bill also allows up to $1 billion a year for the next five years to go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. However, the current budget resolution in the House for 2004 “doesn’t permit fiscal 2004 funding anywhere near the $1 billion,” said Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), according to Kaiser. The House authorization for the Global Fund is significantly higher than the $200 million a year for five years that Bush had requested. In fact, Bush’s request actually represented a decrease in funding from the $350 million Congress had approved for the fiscal year 2003 budget, according to the American Prospect. The House bill requires that the United States fund no more than one-third of any project, so any dollar going to the Global Fund must be matched with two dollars from other countries, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Senate is expected to pass a similar bill this month.
President Bush as well as both sides of the House have pointed to the success of Uganda’s strategy, which places an emphasis on abstinence and monogamy as well as condom use. In 1991, 15 percent of Uganda’s population was infected with AIDS, and ten years later the rate was down to 5 percent, which conservatives attribute to the abstinence emphasis in the program. However, Uganda’s strategy is “the standard public health approach to prevent sexually transmitted diseases,” according to Sophia Mukasa Monico, the former director of Uganda’s premier HIV/AIDS group, according to the New York Times. Mukasa Monico attributes the success to many different elements, including the political commitment of the president and the government. In addition, “Uganda was very frank in talking about sexual issues, and instrumental in promoting the ABC approach: [A]bstaining (actually phrased as delaying first sexual encounter), Being faithful to one partner, and Consistent condom use,” she wrote during a Feminist Majority Foundation online chat.