On Thursday, May 1, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 1298, which authorizes the President's $15-billion, 5-year Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This initiative is targeted at African and Caribbean countries to provide treatment, prevention, and humane care for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS as well as orphaned children. H.R. 1298 fails to codify the President's key priorities, including emphasizing abstinence, protecting faith-based groups, and limiting funding to the Global Fund. Please urge your Representative to support the following amendments:
The Global Fund for HIV/AIDS is an account at the World Bank and managed by a Board of Directors made up of donor and recipient nations. Even though the U.S. is the largest contributor, U.S. influence is limited to one seat on the Board and representation on scientific panels reviewing proposals. The Global Fund funds HIV/AIDS proposals submitted on behalf a consortium of government, non-governmental organizations, foundations, etc. UNFPA, which the President rightly cut-off U.S. contributions to, has been part of some proposals. The Global Fund is a back-door for groups to circumvent U.S. law and priorities. Very few details about the first round of funded proposals are available publicly. However, to date, all proposals regardless of merit have been funded due to a surplus of funds. North Korea has even received money. H.R. 1298 calls for up to $1 billion for the Fund, even though President Bush asked for $200 million. Involvement with the
Global Fund should be minimized because it is unaccountable to American taxpayers. Urge your Representative to support the amendments to reduce funding to the Global Fund and bring accountability by limiting administrative costs.
As for HIV prevention efforts, the Administration prefers the successful Uganda "ABC" model, instead of the typical condom airlift approach. The "ABC" model prioritizes abstinence, being faithful to a monogamous partner, and only as a last resort, condoms. Ugandans have overwhelmingly responded to this campaign. From 1995 to 1999, HIV transmission rates plunged from 18.5 percent to 8.3 percent. USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios has stated that the ABC model is American policy. Efforts to prioritize abstinence and monogamy over condoms narrowly failed in the International Relations Committee. Rep. Joe Pitts plans to try again by offering an amendment to H.R. 1298 to ensure that at least 33 percent of prevention funds are spent on abstinence-until-marriage efforts. Urge your Representative to vote for the Pitts Abstinence Amendment.
The Catholic Church cares for 1 in 4 people being treated for AIDS worldwide. Faith-based groups are key to providing treatment and prevention, but they should not be forced to provide condoms if they have a religious objection. Rep. Chris Smith will offer the floor amendment to make that sure faith-based groups will be protected in the law. Urge your Representative to vote for the Smith Conscience Amendment.
Please urge your Member of Congress to support the amendments regarding the Global Fund, abstinence, and conscience protection. Without solid policy written into the AIDS legislation from its inception, HIV transmission will continue to rage on, and billions of tax-dollars will be wasted.
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