Bill to Strike Abstinence Earmark from PEPFAR

Today, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced groundbreaking legislation, the HIV Prevention Act of 2007, a bill that would remove the ideological 33 percent abstinence-until-marriage earmark from HIV prevention programs in the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The earmark is the primary culprit in denying young people in PEPFAR countries from receiving honest, comprehensive HIV prevention programs. Ten additional Democratic Senators co-sponsored the bill including Senators Clinton, Durbin, and Feingold.

Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the nation's leading medical authority, released a report calling on Congress to remove the harmful abstinence-until-marriage earmark from PEPFAR, stating that "[PEPFAR's] budget allocations have made spending money in a particular way an end in itself rather than a means to an end—in this instance, the vitally important end of saving lives today and in the future."

The HIV Prevention Act of 2007 also allows for greater flexibility within PEPFAR to respond more quickly and specifically to the local epidemic, and supports public health best practices that are tailored to local needs and culture.

Senators Feinstein and Snowe have taken a bold step toward responding to the IOM's call and remedying the harm caused to young people by the abstinence-until-marriage earmark. Hopefully, the Senate will put ideological differences aside and join them in this noble effort.

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