The Senate has introduced a bipartisan bill tripling funding for President Bush’s program to fight HIV/AIDS. The $50 billion budget over five years would go toward the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is set to expire in September.
The legislation, however, is being held up by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and six other conservative senators who object to the fact that the program would direct most of the spending on the “prevention” of HIV/AIDS, rather than just “treatment.” The treatment of HIV/AIDS-infected individuals is “the No. 1 prevention protocol we have” argued Coburn.
Coburn may be an obstetrician, but he seems to be out of the mainstream with other medical professionals on this issue, who say that focusing on treatment as a form of prevention is short-sighted and ineffective:
“Most experts agree that treatment is only one small part of the prevention agenda,” said Denis Nash, director of monitoring, evaluation and research at the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs at Columbia University. [...]
“The prevention effect of treatment is not likely to be anywhere near the magnitude of prevention through prevention,” including safe-sex education and condom distribution, said Mead Over, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Coburn has a habit of blocking bills funding medical research, and his record on health care is abysmal. Coburn has repeatedly blocked legislation funding breast cancer research, doing so as recently as April, as well as funding to screen returning veterans for signs of suicide risk. In 2005, he proclaimed that silicone breast implants “make you healthier.” When running for Senate in 2004, he suggested the death penalty for abortion doctors.
In a letter to Senate leaders last month, 14 GOP senators urged the passage of the PEPFAR funding bill. ONE has a petition here urging senators to support the legislation.