The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Other Programs held a hearing last week on US programs to combat HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) across the world. Subcommittee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) opened the hearings by noting the advancements and accomplishments the US has made, and how increased funds in 2007 and 2008 will be put to good use, saying, “This funding has had results: 822,000 people are on antiretroviral therapy, 61.5 million people have been reached through HIV prevention community outreach programs, and over 2 million orphans have received assistance.”
Representative Lowey and others, however, added concerns about whether US actions are sufficient to address the growing pandemic. “UNAIDS reported in 2006 that 39.5 million people were living with HIV with new infections on the rise. Disconcerting evidence indicates that some countries, which previously had stable or declining HIV rates, are seeing a resurgence of new cases. While our efforts are impressive, they are clearly not enough,” Rep. Lowey said in her opening remarks.
The US Global AIDS coordinator, Ambassador Mark Dybul, was present at the hearing and spoke of how gender inequality affects the HIV/AIDS pandemic. “Around the world, girls and women are contracting HIV at an alarming rate. The reasons are complex, but they are invariably tied to pervasive, powerful, and often brutal gender inequities,” Dr. Dybul testified, according to the The Source on Women’s Issues in Congress. Dr. Dybul added that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) addresses women’s needs by requiring countries to include programs that work towards gender equity.
Still, Representatives Lowey and Barbara Lee (D-CA) pointed out how the policies outlined in PEPFAR do not do enough for women. Thirty-three percent of HIV/AIDS prevention funds are earmarked for abstinence-until-marriage programs. “If we support ABC [Abstain, Be faithful, and correct and consistent use of Condoms], then we need to support all three, not just abstinence,” Representative Lee said, according to the The Source on Women’s Issues in Congress. “The empowerment of women is integral to combating AIDS. This [abstinence-only] earmark affects women in their ability to deal with AIDS in appropriate ways.