First Lady Laura Bush revealed recently that, while she believes that abstinence education is an important component of HIV prevention efforts, she would be supportive of waiving the earmark mandating that 33 percent of US prevention funds be spent of abstinence-only programs. In an interview with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux during a trip through several African countries, Laura Bush commented that condoms are “absolutely necessary” and that she was “perfectly fine” with the proposed idea — now passed in the House and introduced in the Senate — that the abstinence only provision be waived from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Passed in 2003, PEPFAR required that one-third of the global prevention program’s funding go to the promotion of abstinence only education. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the abstinence programs were actually “undermining the global efforts to prevent 7 million new HIV infections by 2008,” the Center for Health and Gender Equity reports.
Last month, the House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) that would permit a president to waive the abstinence-only provision. In the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently introduced the HIV Prevention Act, which would eliminate the HIV/AIDS abstinence-until-marriage funding earmarks. President Bush has threatened to veto the bills, following his promise to reject any legislation that weakens current policies or laws surrounding abortion.