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U.S. Funding for AIDS in Africa Succeeds…and Fails

April 14, 2009

A notable paradox of George W. Bush was his unparalleled support for U.S. funding of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment worldwide.  Um, this guy?  This thwarter of human rights and women’s rights?  That’s right, in 2003 GWB bore the brainchild PEPFAR, which pumped $15 billion of funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment into  in Haiti, Guyana, Vietnam, and 12 sub-Saharan African countries over five years.

No other country in the world has allocated so much funding to tackling one disease, and since 2003 support and funding for this program has only continued to grow.

A new study out of Standford University assessing PEPFAR’s impact has shown that while there have been tremendous successes, there have been also been monumental failures.

The Washington Post reports that over five years, PEPFAR provided antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to more than 2 million people, including pregnant women, ensuring that nearly 250,000 babies would be born HIV-free.  Perhaps the biggest victory is the 10.5 percent reduction in the AIDS death rate in the 12  African countries where PEPFAR was implemented, as compared to the countries around them.

Yet the study also found no change in the rate of new infections in the same countries.  Wait a second… $15 billion for HIV/AIDS prevention and no change in the number of people getting HIV?  Sadly this is due, at least in large part, to the abstinence-only education spewing forth from the program.  Abstinence-only education didn’t work for Bristol Palin, and it’s not going to help quell the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  Not in a place where people are obviously having sex, and oftentimes with multiple partners.  The complexity of the situation goes beyond what’s mentioned here, but hasn’t been helped in the least by the lack of support by powerful people like the Pope or head of the African National Congress.

So, a win and a loss…the irony of the George Bush paradox.

J.Mack is a global feminist residing in Brooklyn.

  1. Emily permalink*
    April 15, 2009 9:26 am

    Yeah, it’s hard to believe that George Bush did something decent in his eight years in office. But, as you stated, PEPFAR does not focus on prevention of HIV/AIDS or if it does, it involves the faulty abstinence-only, “don’t talk about condoms” rule. Do you think that if PEPFAR actually focused on prevention, that in the next few years the program itself would be spending less money on treating HIV/AIDS?

    • J. Mack permalink*
      April 17, 2009 3:11 pm

      It’s possible they’d spend less money, but the “less money” could be far better spent by funding proven cost-effective programs like family planning and access to scientifically-accurate reproductive health care info. By keeping HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in this “silo,” I think the impact is much less. There are many reasons this has happened, historically, not least of which is separate pots of foreign funding. Instead, reproductive health programs on the ground need to bring in the HIV/AIDS component and vice versa. Then maybe we could see some results across the board…

  2. jennifer permalink
    June 18, 2009 11:25 pm

    You ingrates, he should have kept the money in the USA then. If you have one child and cannot pay for it and have HIV for goodness sake please don’t have another! Greg Bush gave more money to Hiv/Aids to Africa then any person in the world! It’s not his fault people are stupid. Likewise if you cannot afford to feed your first child don’t have another! Have some common sense.

    • Emily permalink*
      June 19, 2009 7:45 am

      Jennifer, could you clarify your comment? Are you saying that abstinence-only is effective, and/or George Bush (not “Greg”) should not be responsible for where the money went (treatment vs. prevention) in helping the fight against HIV/AIDS?

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