A disaster for abstinence ideology
Esther Kaplan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 25, 2006 at 10:16:56 AM EST
Crushing news out of Uganda last week. The Bush administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May 18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005. And despite this chilling wake-up call, Bush has empowered Christian right activists to continue to push their abstinence-only agenda at a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to begin next week. According to a State Department email I obtained, the official U.S. delegation is stacked with some of the very people who contributed to the debacle in Uganda.
Uganda was once an HIV prevention success story, where an ambitious government-sponsored prevention campaign, including massive condom distribution and messages about delaying sex and reducing numbers of partners, pushed HIV rates down from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2001. But conservative evangelicals rewrote this history--with the full-throated cooperation of Uganda's evangelical first family, the Musevenis. As one Family Research Council paper put it:
"Both abstinence and monogamy helped to curb the spread of AIDS in Uganda...How did this happen? Shortly after he came into office in 1986, President Museveni of Uganda spearheaded a mass education campaign promoting a three-pronged AIDS prevention message: abstinence from sexual activity until marriage; monogamy within marriage; and condoms as a last resort. The message became commonly known as ABC: Abstain, Be faithful, and use Condoms if A and B fail."
This warped version of the true Uganda story became the mantra in Bush's Washington, with the "C" reduced more and more to an afterthought as time went by. For example, in piling on against a 2002 pro-condom comment by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, Focus on the Family's James Dobson wrote condoms out of the story entirely: "Secretary Powell seems to be ignorant of the fact the Uganda has made great progress against AIDS by emphasizing abstinence, not condoms." Soon, players connected with the Christian right, from Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse to Anita Smith's Children's AIDS Fund, cashed in to the tune of millions of dollars in federal grants to spread the abstinence message in Uganda, the Christian rights' new showcase for a morality-based approach to AIDS. In the case of Smith's outfit, her proposal was shot down by a scientific review committee, but politics prevailed: the head of U.S. AID overruled the experts and demanded that the program be funded.

Anita Smith has long been a close ally of Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma senator James Dobson helped get elected who is so fanatically pro-abstinence that he has pushed for warning labels on condoms and once demanded the ouster of the head of the Centers for Disease Control for promoting condom use. Coburn's legislative director, Roland Foster, used to regularly send out Children's AIDS Fund emails trashing HIV prevention organizations for being too sexually explicit and calling for them to be investigated and defunded. (Many were.) Once Coburn, a former Congressman, was elected to the Senate in 2004, President Bush picked Smith to replace Coburn as the head of his Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Now, according to the State Department email printed below, she's an official U.S. delegate to next week's UN Special Session on AIDS.

Another official U.S. delegate, Melissa Pardue, now a White House functionary, until recently used her perch as a Heritage Foundation policy analyst to supply the Christian right with their talking points on abstinence-only education, forwarding the false claims that multiple scientific studies show that abstinence-only education works (in fact the most persuasive data shows that people who pledge abstinence are at greater risk for getting sexually transmitted diseases) and that the federal government spends far more on comprehensive sex ed (the feds spend almost zero on the latter, but Pardue tiptoes around that by counting all the funds that go to family planning clinics to provide medical care).

Together Smith and Pardue have been key players in injecting abstinence-only ideology into the Washington echo chamber.

Other delegates include Michael Gerson, President Bush's evangelical former speechwriter, famous for his turns of phrase that appealed to the Christian right, and Pastor Herbert Lusk, the former footballer known as the "praying tailback" and a passionate proponent of Bush's faith-based initiative. Neither have any background in HIV/AIDS.

Just in case we wondered whether Bush was serious about confronting AIDS, two more names on the delegate list give us a hint: his daughter Barbara Bush and her party playmate Maggie Betts are both listed as "senior advisors."

In previous administrations, delegations to these high-level UN meetings typically included mainstream public health experts such as the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association. Now we have abstinence advocates peddling fake science, New York socialites, and professional evangelizers.

Already, according to Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization, the United States is pushing hard at the UN to block time-bound targets for treating the 10 million people worldwide who urgently need HIV medications. And, not surprisingly given its roster of advisors, the U.S. has also demanded removal of any language referring to condoms in the declaration that comes out of next week's meeting.

Meanwhile, infection rates in Uganda climb.

From: Kerry, Peggy [mailto:kerryp@state.gov]
Sent: Monday, May 22, 2006 10:00 AM
To: Kerry, Peggy
Subject: US Delegation to UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS - May 21 - June 2, 2006

UNITED STATES DELEGATION TO THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH LEVEL MEETING ON HIV/AIDS
NEW YORK, MAY 31 - JUNE 2, 2006

Head of Presidential Mission

First Lady Laura Bush
Head of delegation

Representative

Ambassador John R. Bolton
Permanent Representative to the U.N.

Alternate Representatives

Mark Dybul, M.D.
Acting U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Ambassador Richard T. Miller
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council

Senior Advisers

Anthony Fauci, M.D.
Director
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Department of Health and Human Services

Matthew C. Freedman
Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Department of State

Michael Gerson
Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning
White House

Kent Hill, Ph.D.
Assistant Administrator for Global Health
U.S. Agency for International Development

Jimmy Kolker
Assistant U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator
Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Anita McBride
Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady
White House

Melissa Pardue
Associate Director
Domestic Policy Council
The White House

Kristen L. Silverberg
Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Department of
State

William R. Steiger, Ph.D.
Director, Office of Global Health Affairs
Special Assistant to the Secretary for International Affairs
Department of Health and Human Services

Carol Thompson
Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
Department of State
Congressional Advisers

The Honorable
Joseph R. Biden
Ranking Member
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. Senate

The Honorable
Bill Frist
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate

The Honorable
Dennis Hastert
Majority Leader
House of Representatives

The Honorable
Henry Hyde
Chairman
House International Relations Committee
House of Representatives

The Honorable
Jim Kolbe
Chairman
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations
House Appropriations Committee
House of Representatives

The Honorable
Tom Lantos
Ranking Member
House International Relations Committee
House of Representatives

The Honorable
Patrick Leahy
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations
U.S. Senate

The Honorable
Nita M. Lowey
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations
House Appropriations Committee
House of Representatives

The Honorable
Richard G. Lugar
Chairman
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. Senate

The Honorable
Mitch McConnell
Chairman
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations
U.S. Senate
Advisers

Warren "Buck" Buckingham
PEPFAR Country Coordinator, Kenya
Department of State

Kathryn Buikema
Multilateral Organizations Liaison Officer
Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Miriam K. Hughes
Minister Counsellor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Jason Lawrence
Adviser
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Alec L. Mally
Minister Counsellor
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

Colin McIff
Multilateral Organizations Liaison Officer
Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Sonya Medina
Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
and Director of Projects for the First Lady
White House

Michael Molina
Associate Director
Office of the White House Liaison
Department of State

Guinnevere Roberts, Ph.D.
Foreign Affairs Officer
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Department of State

Samuel Adeniyi-Jones
Director, Africa Region
Office of Global Health Affairs
Department of Health and Human Services

Thomas Walsh
Senior Advisor
Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

Bisa Williams-Manigault
Director for United Nations and International Operations
National Security Council
The White House
Private Members

Mitch Besser
Founder
The Mothers Programmes
Cape Town, South Africa

Maggie Betts
New York, New York

Miss Barbara Bush
Washington, D.C.

Bill Gates
Co-Chair
The Gates Foundation

Pastor Herb Lusk
Senior Pastor
Greater Exodus Baptist Church
Philadelphia, PA

John Martin, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Gilead Sciences
Foster City, CA

Marsha Martin
Senior Deputy Director
HIV/AIDS Administration
D.C. Department of Health

Jairo Pedraza
PWA Leadership Institute
Member, Board of Directors
Latino Commission on AIDS
New York, NY

Anita Smith
Co-Chair, Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS
President, Children's AIDS Fund
Washington, D.C.

Jack Valenti
President
Friends of the Global Fight
Washington, DC

Technical Adviser

Jamie Drummond
Executive Director
Debt AIDS Trade Africa (DATA)
Washington, D.C.




Display:
There's a protest scheduled for next week at the UN, for those who happen to be in New York City.

MASSIVE AIDS Street protest IN NYC, MAY 31 AS WORLD LEADERS GATHER AT UN Special Session on AIDS

-- Coinciding with 25th Anniversary of First AIDS Diagnoses, Thousands are Expected to Protest Failed Promises of Leadership, Call for Greater Commitment to HIV Prevention and Treatment --

WHAT:  Thousands of people living with HIV, civil society delegates and other AIDS activists from around the world are mobilizing around the upcoming UN high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS where governments will review
progress on their 2001 commitments. A coalition of AIDS service and advocacy
groups is staging a large rally and march to hold leaders accountable for the 15 million AIDS deaths and 25 million new HIV infections since 2001.

Several activists from around the globe will speak outside the UN followed by a march to the UN missions of Uganda, Nigeria, India and the US to demand universal access to AIDS treatment and comprehensive, science-based HIV prevention, including condoms, in communities around the world.

Demonstrators will wear the famous anti stigma "HIV-POSITIVE" t-shirt, popularized by South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, in solidarity with the 40 million people living with HIV around the world.

WHO:  Speakers will include:
· Emcee - Rosie Perez, actress/director and AIDS activist
· Sipho Mthathi, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), South Africa
· Violetta Ross, Bolivian Network of People Living with AIDS
· Beatrice Were, Action Aid, Uganda
· Raminta Stuikyte, Executive Director, Central and Eastern Europe Harm Reduction Network
· Waheeda Shabazz, ACT UP Philadelphia
· Dr. Vineeta Gupta, Stop HIV/AIDS in India Initiative (SHAII)

WHEN & WHERE:
Wednesday, 31 May, 2006
1:00 p.m. Rally at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza (47th Street and 1st Av.)
2:00pm March to UN missions of Uganda (336
E. 45th St.), India (235 E. 43rd St.), Nigeria (828 2nd Ave.), ending at the U.S. (140 E. 45th St.).

Media are welcome. For more information, contact:

Catharine Bufalino, African Services Committee: 212-222-3882 ext. 146



by Esther Kaplan on Thu May 25, 2006 at 05:44:28 PM EST

This is very important stuff.

The human cost of the Bush administration's mad experiment in "faith-based" science has been devastating. I hope there is a tremendous turn-out at the protest at the UN.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu May 25, 2006 at 06:56:38 PM EST


with so much background on how this sickening situation has come to pass.

There's a related diary on the "Recommended" list at Daily Kos tonight -- Abstinence education backfiring in Uganda? -- where I've left a comment with a link to your story, in the hope that it receives an even wider circulation.  

by moiv on Fri May 26, 2006 at 01:13:57 AM EST


It didn't hit the rec list but I'll cover the issue again soon

by Bruce Wilson on Fri May 26, 2006 at 07:59:38 AM EST

Thank you very much for reporting on this--one of the things that is drastically underreported, IMHO, is the fact that these "abstinence only" policies have Real Life health consequences--and usually not for the better.

by dogemperor on Fri May 26, 2006 at 10:08:51 AM EST

What a tragedy!  Hopefully, we can correct this catastrophe soon.

By the way, some of my relatives helped to elect Sen. Tom Coburn of OKLAHOMA, unfortunately.

by Maat on Sat May 27, 2006 at 11:43:04 PM EST

Thanks for catching my mistake on Tom Coburn -- some kind of Freudian slip caused by that recent abortion ban in South Dakota.  Just curious -- what attracted your family to Coburn? Is it because James Dobson is behind him? Is it support for his moral values agenda?

by Esther Kaplan on Sun May 28, 2006 at 05:46:00 PM EST
Parent



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