PEPFAR Abstinence-Only Policies Come Under Fire

Naina Dhingra is the Director of International Policy at Advocates for Youth and serves on the Developed Country NGO Board Delegation of the Global Fund.

PEFPAR's prevention policies are under the microscope this week at the International AIDS Conference. There is a sense of outrage from the global community about the U.S. abstinence-until-marriage approach.

"It is illegitimate to dictate terms to governments that have their own policies and priorities and own ways to deal with the response," exclaimed Ambassador Stephen Lewis on the topic of U.S. global HIV prevention policy at a press conference convened this morning by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO), and Advocates for Youth. "No government in the western world has the right to dictate policy to African governments in how they structure their response. That's called conditionality. That's totally unacceptable in today's world," Ambassador Lewis said.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee discussed her efforts to improve these policies through the Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006. "I was one of the chief co-sponsors of the PEPFAR legislation. There were some very good things in that bill and there are some terrible things. What I'm trying to do with the PATHWAY Act is unravel the bad provisions that have negative impacts on countries in Africa specifically," said Congresswoman Lee.

Jodi Jacobson, the Executive Director of CHANGE added, "PEPFAR prevention polices are eroding the platform that we've built for years to provide comprehensive information and will leave us in a deficit for years to come."

Richard Burzynski, the Executive Director of ICASO, discussed a new policy by the ICASO Board of Directors to oppose any law or policy that undermines best policy in public health or violates human rights – including U.S. prevention policy such as the prostitution pledge, abstinence until-marriage, and harm reduction.

Ambassador Lewis summed up the sentiments of many conference attendees by stating, "This kind of insipient neocolonialism is unacceptable when responding to the pandemic of AIDS."

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