Hijacking AIDS Relief

There is an old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It is a message members of Congress ought to pay heed to when it comes to the spread of AIDS in Africa.

One of the Bush administration's most successful programs is the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-PEPFAR for short. It is the biggest health initiative ever undertaken by any country to fight a single disease.

When the president announced his five-year, $15 billion plan in 2003, only 50,000 people were receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. As Bishop Harry Jackson noted at Townhall.com, "The results [of this initiative] have been phenomenal. . . . The [AIDS] program helped provide antiretroviral treatment for over 1.4 million men, women, and children . . . Over 86,000 children, age 14 and under, are receiving this life-saving treatment."

Key to PEPFAR is prevention programs that rely on the "ABC" approach: Abstinence, "Be Faithful," and condoms if necessary. Jackson notes that this approach has been hugely successful, proven so in Uganda, in reducing risky behaviors. The ABC programs have reached more than 40 million people, including nearly 11 million children. They have "helped create a healthy change in personal behavior and social/sexual norms among young people," Jackson writes.

Clearly, PEPFAR has shown itself to be a spectacular success-so naturally, liberal policy makers decided they needed to fix it.

Next week, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to mark up a renewal bill called "The U.S. Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008." That is a mouthful. But pro-abortion groups have gotten their hooks into the bill, and if they have their way, the AIDS initiative will bear little resemblance to the programs that have proven so successful.

For example, these policy makers want to get rid of a pledge in which recipients of PEPFAR funds will not support the legalization of prostitution or sex-trafficking. But as Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.) says, the pledge is intended to "ensure that pimps and brothel owners do not become U.S. government partners."

The revised bill also undoes rules that prevent money from funding abortions. So out of the 50 billion dollar pot for HIV/AIDS relief, much of it could be diverted from faith-based groups to abortion providers. Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) puts it bluntly: The proposed changes would "transform the program into a mega-funding pool for organizations with an abortion promotion agenda." The pro-abortion interests apparently have the elitist idea that the way to solve AIDS in Africa is have fewer Africans.

Worst of all, the proposed changes would undermine the ABC approach in favor of simply using condoms. This, despite the fact that several countries that have abandoned the ABC approach in favor of condom-only have seen their HIV-infection rates go up.

I hope you will contact your congressman and ask that PEPFAR be renewed exactly the way it was originally written. The plan is not broken. If liberal policymakers are allowed to "fix" it, millions of Africans will pay the price, and your tax dollars will be funding Planned Parenthood's abortion agenda.

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