Bush Administration Cites Progress in AIDS Program

The Bush administration reported to Congress that it has more than doubled treatment for people with AIDS in developing countries. In the second annual report to Congress, the administration also defended AIDS prevention programs run by faith-based organizations.

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And there is some progress in the treatment of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. The Bush Administration says, in the past year, it has more than doubled treatment for people in developing countries. Nearly half a million people are getting life sustaining anti-AIDS drugs under the president's AIDS Relief Plan. In the second annual report to Congress, the administration also defended AIDS prevention programs run by faith-based organizations.

NPR's Brenda Wilson reports.

BRENDA WILSON reporting:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the progress that the president's AIDS plan has made is a bold example of what the administration is calling an effective use of foreign assistance.

Secretary of State CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Two years ago, only 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral treatment. By the end of last year, the emergency plan had expanded treatment in that region to 400,000 people, plus an additional 71,000 individuals worldwide.

WILSON: So far, more than half of the $15 billion dollars the administration requested for the five year, bilateral initiative has been appropriated. It covers 15 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia; nearly half of the funding goes for treatment. Administration critic, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee supports the program, but says the administration could have treated twice as many people by pooling resources with the global fund to fight AIDS, TB, and malaria.

Representative BARBARA LEE (Democrat, California): When you look at the funding, it has consistently been totally inadequate. We want at least, you know, 1.2 billion for the global fund, and I think they're only asking for 300 million. And they continue to under-fund this entire initiative. And so, while it shows that there are some advancements being made, I don't think that this administration has moved forward on this with that sense of urgency that the pandemic warrants.

WILSON: About a third of the funding goes for prevention, which has been controversial, despite the administration's insistence that it supports a balanced approach; a point reiterated by Secretary Rice.

Secretary RICE: The hallmark of our preventive efforts is the ABC approach: abstain, be faithful, and correct consistent use of condoms.

WILSON: The administration treats A, B and C equally, allocating a third of sexual transmission prevention funds to be set aside for abstinence, and a third for programs that promote fidelity. That's twice as much as condom programs get. That upsets critics, as well as the fact that in certain regions, in some countries, only faith-based groups are doing prevention. The Deputy Coordinator for Global AIDS Program, Mark Diebold, says sometimes they are the only ones there.

Mr. MARK DYBUL (Deputy Coordinator, Global AIDS Programs): The law for the United States is very clear. Organizations that do not support condoms do not need to provide that education. But for a ten-year-old kid, you don't want to provide the full message. What you're teaching as an abstinence only, and so, there are groups that are dedicated to that. The law is also very clear that no group can provide medical misinformation, and so, it's a balanced approach that provides A, B and C. And you need all three components, so different groups can provide different pieces. Or, one group can provide all three pieces.

WILSON: The problem with that, however, critics say, is that by targeting messages, certain groups, such as married women and young girls, who need to hear about condoms may not get the message.

Brenda Wilson, NPR News, Washington.

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