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What Kind of Movement Are We?

As we approach our last chance to improve the PEPFAR reauthorization bill, we must ask ourselves: do we care about claiming a victory on a mediocre piece of legislation and maintaining relationships with Congress, or do we care about taking a principled stand for the needs of people around the world?

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PEPFAR MythBusters: Episode Two

Yesterday, I blogged about how PEPFAR's Third Annual Report to Congress reveals that the United States is not doing as much on treatment in the 15 focus countries as many believed it was. I combated the myth that PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is providing treatment for 822,000 people.

Today, I combat another treatment myth—that generics account for 70% of PEPFAR's expenditure on anti-retroviral AIDS drugs. And I take issue with the argument that since the abstinence-until-marriage spending requirement is "only one-third of the prevention budget, it really isn't that big of a problem."

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PEPFAR MythBusters: Episode One

Healy Thompson is Senior Associate for Advocacy and Outreach for the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is no stranger to criticism. However, most of the focus of the criticism to date has been PEPFAR's requirement that one-third of prevention money be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Other than some initial criticism about not buying generic AIDS medications, the global AIDS advocacy community has mostly praised PEPFAR on its treatment efforts. (PEPFAR's goal of "supporting treatment for 2 million people in 15 focus countries by 2008" has been seen as a crucial step in gaining universal access to treatment by 2010.) Reports that PEPFAR is on-target to reach 2 million people by 2008 (treating 822,000 by the end of 2006) and that it has scaled-up its use of generic drugs have increased that praise lately.

However, PEPFAR's third annual report to Congress (The Power of Partnerships: Third Annual Report to Congress) reveals that we need to reconsider most of the advocacy community's assumptions about the scale of PEPFAR's treatment efforts.

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Choice Interrupted: Politics and Complacency Undermine Access to Basic Contraception

Healy Thompson is a policy analyst and outreach coordinator for the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

Almost half of the women in sub-Saharan Africa who want to delay their next pregnancy or have no more children don't have access to modern contraception or other family planning services. Some of those women want to use contraception to space or limit births, because they're too young or too old or too sick or too tired to add new members to their families. Some have other aspirations for their lives right now than childbearing. Whatever the reason, a woman who doesn't want to get pregnant should be able to choose to use contraception and should have access to that contraception and to all reproductive and sexual health care services.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls: Looking Ahead to World AIDS Day

Healy Thompson is a policy analyst and outreach coordinator for the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

On December 1, a church bell in downtown Washington, DC will toll every 5 seconds as people head to work. For most of the people who hear that bell and see people gathered outside of the church with signs and banners, it will be their first exposure to World AIDS Day. Even though World AIDS Day was first declared by the World Health Organization and the UN General Assembly in 1988, most people around the world have no idea that it exists, much less what day it is – and this is despite the fact that 4.1 million people were newly infected with HIV and 3 million people died of AIDS in 2005 according to UNAIDS.

The fact that most people have no idea that World AIDS Day exists makes it particularly difficult to live up to the theme of this World AIDS Day: Accountability. In order to hold the U.S. accountable for its promises to treat 2 million people, prevent 7 million new HIV infections, and provide care to 10 million in fifteen focus countries by 2008 (promises made as a part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief–PEPFAR), we need people around the country to demand that the Bush Administration and the U.S. Congress implement the best prevention, treatment, and care strategies possible and make changes to the policy and legislation that stand in the way of this.

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Prevention Now! Campaign for Female Condoms

Healy Thompson is a policy analyst and outreach coordinator for the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

I have spent a lot of time these last couple of months working with my colleagues at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and with advocates, researchers, and people living with HIV around the world on the launch of a new campaign to dramatically increase access to the female condom.

During this time, I found myself mentioning the female condom and the campaign (Prevention Now! www.preventionnow.net) to my friends on more than one occasion. These well-meaning and pretty well-informed, progressive people (many of them global health activists) couldn’t figure out why I would be spending so much time on this campaign.

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