In 2003, Congress passed the President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which provides HIV/AIDS drugs and funding to 15 countries plagued by the virus. However, President Bush and the conservative-controlled Congress tacked a restrictive provision to PEPFAR requiring that one-third of prevention funding go to promoting abstinence education.
Last month, the House rejected the policy, passing legislation that would allow Bush and future presidents to waive the abstinence-only provision. In response, Bush threatened a veto, claiming “he would veto any legislation that weakens current policy and laws on abortion.”
In an interview with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux this week, First Lady Laura Bush disagreed with her husband’s right-wing agenda, stating that she believes condoms are “absolutely essential” and supports waiving the abstinence-only provision. Watch it:
While the U.S. spends the most money on AIDS relief, the abstinence-only provision hinders programs that could use more money for treatment.
Furthermore, a Government Accountability Office report in 2006 found that 12 of the 15 “focus-countries” were forced to reduce spending on HIV/AIDS prevention in order to meet the abstinence requirements. Programs backing safe-sex practices subsequently lost necessary funding.
UPDATE: The Center for Health and Gender Equity has more on Laura Bush’s statements.
MALVEAUX:And while the First Lady defends the administration’s commitment to abstinence, she also supports people using condoms.
BUSH: Men wear condoms, and not every girl, or woman, can get their partner to do that. Now I’m not saying that condoms aren’t absolutely essential, they are, and it’s very, very important.
MALVEAUX: With Democrats in control of Congress, Representative Nita Lowey has won House approval for an amendment for this coming year’s AIDS funding that would allow the president to waive the one-third requirement. I asked the First Lady about it, and she said she found that idea perfectly fine.