An April 4 government study that evaluated the Bush administration’s program to fight HIV-AIDS found that a mandate promoting abstinence-only sex education worldwide was confusing for those who implement it and sometimes hindered comprehensive educational programs for populations at high risk for HIV.

The Government Accountability Office, the congressional budget watchdog, said in its independent report that 17 out of 20 U.S. Agency for International Development teams in 17 surveyed countries told investigators the abstinence requirement hampered their ability to respond to “local prevention needs.” The mandate requires that individual teams spend at least one-third of their anti-AIDS funding on promoting sexual abstinence.

The report also identified widespread confusion about whether USAID workers were allowed to teach about condoms, since the term “condom promotion” is prohibited by the legislation, while there is ambiguity surrounding the term “condom education.”

“Unfortunately, this report demonstrates the Bush administration’s willingness to make AIDS prevention policy a political plaything in their ongoing effort to appease the far right,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said. “We should be relying on science, not ideology, to stop this pandemic.”

More News to Cheer This Week

  • Thirty-one female employees bringing a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit against the U.S. Mint in Denver won a $9 million settlement this week, the Denver Post reported April 1. Female employees described instances of discrimination in hiring practices, finding stashes of pornography in the office, being propositioned by managers and being offered money for sex. They brought the lawsuit after more than 100 complaints filed over the course of five years were met with silence by the mint’s equal-employment officer.
  • Once or twice a month for seven years, a 70-year-old grandmother, Dr. Miriam McCreary, has flown from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, S.D., to perform abortions at the only clinic that offers the procedure in the state, CNN reported April 5. McCreary says she hopes that a South Dakota doctor will take her place soon because she wants to retire.
  • House Republicans failed this week to pass a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Washington Post reported April 6. If conservative Republicans fail to pass a budget resolution this spring or summer, they could have a tougher time later this year enacting their desired level of cuts to federal programs that aid low-income people, a majority of whom are women.
  • After 12 years on the books, an Indian law meant to prevent sex-selective abortions produced a first conviction in the case of Dr. Anil Sabhani, a New Delhi doctor who offered to abort the female fetus of a pregnant patient. Sabhani faces a two-year sentence. The law forbids doctors from revealing the gender of a fetus and targets a practice that has skewed male-female ratios in the wealthier Indian states, the Christian Science Monitor reported March 31. A recent study estimated that 10 million female fetuses were aborted in India between 1978 and 1998.
  • Women’s and gender studies may be offered as an undergraduate major in a public university in Texas for the first time this fall, reported The Paisano, the student newspaper at the University of Texas-San Antonio, on April 3. The proposal is awaiting review by the San Antonio faculty senate, but is expected to be enacted.

For more information:

“Budget Falls Short for Domestic Violence Programs”:

The Government Accountability Office–
GLOBAL HEALTH: Spending Requirement Presents Challenges for Allocating Prevention Funding under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Doctor Flies Into South Dakota to Perform Abortions
(video included):

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