Friday, April 07, 2006

New GAO report: Abstinence-only strings on AIDS money costing lives

W's Theocratic pandering is starting to have a body count.  Last year, largely as a sop to hard-right religious groups, (many of whom once regarded AIDS as God's punishment),  Bush added some unprecedented strings to all US AIDS-prevention money:

President George W. Bush's...AIDS relief plan requires that two-thirds of funds for preventing sexual HIV transmission be used to promote "ABC" programs -- abstain, be faithful or use a condom.

Would you be shocked if I told you this has been a total disaster?

According to GAO audit; thanks largely to those conditions, the money the US is spending on AIDS prevention is doing more harm than good:

An audit by the nonpartisan     Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit and investigative arm, found the spending requirement limited the ability of U.S. workers to address prevention priorities of the countries they serve.

"Seventeen of 20 country teams reported that fulfilling that spending requirement ... presents challenges to their ability to respond to local prevention needs," the GAO audit said.

Once upon a time, it Looked as IF AIDS prevention may have been the one decent thing that W did during his presidency.

In fact, disloyal citizens who haven't recently used their memory hole may recall that in the 2003 State of the Union Address Bush Promised to spend a whopping 15 billion dollars over 5 years to fight the spread of AIDS in the third world.

Given that nearly 20 million have died from AIDS so far in the world and another 30 million are infected in Africa alone, this  actually seemed like W was, for once, doing the right thing (as opposed to the Right-wing thing). I for one was cautiously optimistic


Fast forward three years. Not only has Bush failed to deliver anywhere NEAR the funds he promised (or even ask for them in his budgets), but  thanks to those "ABC" conditions Bush attached to the funding; what we HAVE spent has actually HURT not helped global prevention efforts:

Three countries interviewed by GAO investigators reported that they had to cut back programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. One country reported it had to cut investment in medical and blood safety activities.

And the Country that was facing a severe Condom shortage? Fuhgetaboutit: (after all why would we want our AIDS-prevention money going to the cheapest and most effective way to fight AIDS?)

 Another said the ABC spending requirement had complicated efforts to address a condom shortage.

"To reserve funding to procure condoms, the team was required to cut funding for other programs in the 'other prevention' program area and to shift funds from the care category," the report said.

And it's not Just those whacky bi-partisan moonbats at the GAO who think so either.  In fact, the same message is being heard from many different experts:

Dr. Paul Zeitz, director of the Washington-based Global AIDS Alliance said the large earmark requirement for abstinence-only forces people on the ground to under fund critical programs.

"The Bush policy on AIDS prevention is unworkable the way it's currently being implemented. The policy is essentially doing more harm than good"

"more Harm than good".  Chew on that for a moment.  Then consider the enormity of the crime of placing ideological restrictions on money desperately needed to save lives.  Its no exaggeration to say that literally millions of lives hang in the balance right now.

Here in America, it's easy to forget there is a pandemic raging, outside.  Here, it's easy to forget about AIDS.  Thanks to new treatments and drugs, it is no longer an automatic  death sentence anymore, people live for decades after becoming HIV+ with no obvious ill effects.  If it hasn't affected you personally, it's easy to believe the problem is nearly solved.

It is a VERY different story in the rest of the world however; particularly Africa.  Those anti-viral drugs that are SOP here cost more per dose than many people make in a month. Even with Drug give-0away programs and cheaper "counterfeit" AIDS drugs, very few people can sucessfully take them.   Those drugs have to be taken daily for YEARS, in a precise regimine, and carefully adjusted over time.   In countries where healthcare access is nearly non-existant to start with, the brutal truth is a single person often simply  isn't worth that many resources.

As a result,  The worldwide statistics on AIDS casualties are staggering:

  • Since the start of the epidemic 25 Million have died worldwide from AIDS

  • 80% of the worlds current AIDS cases live in Africa

  • Right now,  in Africa alone, there are 30 Millionpeople infected with the AIDS virus

  • There are already 11 Million "AIDS orphans" in Africa

I try to be open-minded; I try not to hate those I disagree with poltically.  I try desperately to tell myself that they are people of good will, and we just have honest disagreements about what's best for our country.   I even try, from time to time to put myself in their shoes, and see the world from their eyes.  After all, not too long ago, you would have considered me one of them in many ways.

But this time, I'm too angry, too baffled, to even try.

Try as I might, I cannot even imagine  what kind of mind it would take, how ideologically twisted you would have to be, to be look at the cataclysmic impact that AIDS has had on the Third World and have the response that W and his administration did.    

How can you face a crisis of this proportion and say:  "Well Yes, certainly we have to do something about this disease, but what I'm really more concerned about is appearing to condone pre-marital sex .  I mean it's all well and good to try to protect people from a sexually transmitted disease; but we can't make it seem like it was okay for them to be having sex in the first place."  :

"After all,  THAT  would be Immoral"


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