[Svrilist] CHANGE PRESS RELEASE ON LEGISLATION TO MODIFY PEPFAR

Jodi Jacobson jjacobson at genderhealth.org
Fri Jun 23 01:14:00 SAST 2006


For Immediate Release
Contact: 

June 22, 2006
Serra Sippel (301) 768-7162


 <http://www.pepfarwatch.org/> www.pepfarwatch.org
Healy Thompson (301) 768-7401


 


Congresswoman Barbara Lee Introduces Landmark Legislation 

to Stop the Spread of HIV among Women and Girls Worldwide

 

Bi-Partisan bill requires PEPFAR to address vulnerability of women and
girls; 

strikes the abstinence-until-marriage earmark.

 

Widespread Support from Local, State and National Organizations.

 

(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 53 other members of
Congress-including Representatives Jim Leach (R-IA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY),
James Moran (D-VA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) -introduced a bill today
that, if passed, would require all HIV prevention programs funded by the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to address violence
against women and other factors fueling the rapid spread of HIV infections
among women and girls. The legislation, Protection Against Transmission of
HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006 (PATHWAY Act of 2006), also strikes the
earmark requiring that 33 percent of all HIV prevention funding be spent on
abstinence-until-marriage programs and ensures that all individuals reached
by US-funded programs are provided with the skills, information, and methods
needed to avoid HIV infection.

 

"This bill provides an urgently needed correction to PEPFAR prevention
programs," stated Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health
and Gender Equity (CHANGE), a non-governmental organization that monitors
the effects of US global AIDS policies on the health and rights of women,
girls, and other vulnerable populations. "The evidence is clear," Jacobson
continued: "The highest rates of new infections throughout sub-Saharan
Africa are among women in their twenties and thirties and among youth ages
15 to 24."

 

Congresswoman Lee stated, "There is no reason why someone should be more
vulnerable to AIDS because she is a woman, but the fact remains that women
and girls in developing countries are bearing the brunt of the global
HIV/AIDS pandemic. Our prevention efforts must be sensitive to the growing
gender disparity of this epidemic and must focus on providing women and
girls the education and resources they need to protect themselves."

 

More than 47 local, state and national organizations, including such groups
as the Chicago Foundation for Women, Ohio AIDS Taskforce, Africa Action, and
amfAR The Foundation for AIDS Research and the Episcopal Church have signed
on in support of the legislation.  (A full list of organizations and members
of Congress supporting the legislation, and the legislation itself, can be
found at  <http://www.pepfarwatch.org/> www.pepfarwatch.org).  In addition,
an increasing number of civil society actors in countries affected by this
legislation are speaking out against US prevention policies and their impact
on effective strategies on the ground.  

 

As the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report confirmed,
restrictions on prevention funding in the original legislation authorizing
PEPFAR are undermining efforts to prevent the greatest number of infections
possible at the country level and are hampering the development of
evidence-based strategies at the field level needed to respond to local
needs.  Among other findings, the GAO concluded that the
abstinence-until-marriage earmark undermined efforts at the country level to
provide integrated programs that best meet the needs of those at risk of HIV
infection, and that the guidance for implementing these programs is unclear.
(The full GAO report and a summary of findings from the report can be found
at  <http://www.pepfarwatch.org/> www.pepfarwatch.org).

 

Participants at an international conference on HIV prevention in London this
week expressed their full support for efforts to eliminate funding
restrictions for prevention programs and make them more responsive to local
needs.

 

"In Zambia, programs funded by the US are actively undermining public
confidence in condoms, and once-comprehensive programs are being replaced by
those that are focused only on abstinence," noted Vincent Mwale, Director of
Young, Happy, Healthy and Safe, a non-governmental organization working on
sexual and reproductive health among youth. "This is creating confusing
messages, and increasing the stigma we have worked so hard for many years to
erase. The result is that youth are still sexually active but are
increasingly turning away from using condoms during sex because of the
stigma now being associated with them. This situation is not good for a
country in which the current prevalence rate is 16 percent in the general
population."

 

Similar concerns were raised by Christabel Ene Unobe of Girls Power
Initiative, Nigeria, and Femi Aina Fasinu, Youth Coalition, Nigeria. "We
know that young people will abstain from sex for a while," observed Unobe,
"but we also know that eventually they become sexually active. They need to
be prepared for when they do so. Yet in Nigeria, we are seeing a resurgence
of very conservative approaches to sex and to prevention programs, with
strong support from PEPFAR.  This has led to the elimination of
comprehensive programs in schools, and also legal restrictions on
advertisements for condoms in public places.  At the same time, we are
seeing unintended pregnancies on the rise, and HIV infections at very high
rates among youth."  Fasinu asserted that "under PEPFAR programs, young
people in Nigeria are getting mixed information on how to protect
themselves, leading to confusion."  

 

Similar comments on US policy came from other regions.  Svenn Grant of the
YMCA of Trinidad and Tobago, noted that "The US is very influential on many
levels in the politics and society of Trinidad and Tobago.  We had a
wholistic health and family life education program, created and approved by
the government.  Now this has been postponed because off the perceived
importance of abstinence-based programs coming from the United States."

 

"Both the GAO report and numerous independent country reports underscore the
extent to which US policies are undermining effective HIV prevention
programs in every region.  Yet people everywhere want access to correct,
consistent information, and to the tools-such as male and female
condoms-they need to protect themselves," said Jacobson.  "This legislation
seeks to ensure they will get what they need to be safe."

 

CHANGE will be leading a grassroots advocacy effort to raise awareness of
the negative effects of the abstinence earmark within PEPFAR and to
highlight voices from the field speaking out about the policy in their
countries and communities.

-end-

 

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) is a US-based
non-governmental organization focused on the effects of US international
policies on the health and rights of women, girls and other vulnerable
populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

 <http://www.genderhealth.org/> www.genderhealth.org

 <http://www.pepfarwatch.org/> www.pepfarwatch.org

 

Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director 
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) 
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 910 
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912 
Phone (301) 270-1182 
Fax: (301) 270-2052 
jjacobson at genderhealth.org 
www.genderhealth.org 

 
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