Sunday, October 22, 2006

Peas in Mattresses

Curious as to why the Bush Administration's 2003 $15 billion dollar PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) is not so positive for women?

This month's Ms. Magazine has a good article about just this subject, Fatal Error by Sarah Forte.

Here are some highlights:

33 percent of all HIV prevention funding must be used on abstinence and fidelity programs. This means that the A and B in the ABC plan- A bstinence, B e faithful, and use C ondoms- have to be stressed and the effectiveness of C must not be (Failure rates must be stressed instead). This is despite the fact that most women are "being faithful," but unfortunately their partners are not.

The rates of women being infected with HIV is raising dramatically and yet all of the burden for prevention is yet again placed on women.

Unfortunately, many women do not have control over sexual decisions. Marital rape is a fact, so is rape as a weapon of war, and what about the woman who has no choice but to have sexual intercourse with the man who is providing food and shelter? Sex for survival may be an uncomfortable pea underneath a stack of mattresses for some, but to others it is an unfortunate reality.

The real shame about this 33% percent requirement is that it is diverting funds from programs that have effective interventions such as mother-to-child HIV transmission programs.

Instead of short sighted policies based solely on ideology, HIV prevention endeavors must utilize strategies that address the realities of women. PATHWAY (Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006), coauthored by the incredible Barbara Lee (D-Calif), would require the President and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) to establish an HIV prevention strategy that addresses the vulnerabilities of women and girls to HIV infection and that eliminates the earmark requiring that 33% of all prevention funding be dedicated to abstinence programs.

So, if you really want to help women be safe from HIV, get off your moral high ground and get in touch with reality. Support women and support PATHWAY.

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