'Pro-life' policy threatens US HIV/AIDS initiative

March 13, 2003

Issue 15 March 2003 The US Government's pledge of $15 billion over five years to tackle HIV/AIDS in the world's most afflicted countries could be compromised by its own pro-life stance against abortion, comments this week's editorial in THE LANCET.

A policy to prohibit foreign non-governmental organisations from receiving US funds if they provide abortions, provide abortion counselling or referrals, or lobby their governments to liberalise abortion laws or to oppose abortion restrictions was introduced by President Reagan in 1984. The policy was suspended in 1993 by President Bill Clinton but reinstated by President Bush in 2001.

The Bush administration is now considering implementing the 1984 policy to the $15 billion HIV/AIDS fund; however a compromise with the original policy will allow HIV clinics who provide abortion services to receive funding providing that abortion services are managed separately from HIV/AIDS services funded by the US. The editorial comments: "...if implemented, the policy will hobble programmes that are in the best position to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic: the local clinics that provide family-planning and maternal-health services to women."

The editorial concludes: "In its document Global Health Sector Strategy for HIV/AIDS, WHO points out that 'existing reproductive-health programmes provide a clear entry point for the delivery of HIV/AIDS interventions'. Such programmes are clearly essential in the fight against this epidemic. Imposing onerous restrictions on these programmes at a time when the epidemic is taking 8000 lives and causing 13,000 new infections a day, is hardly a policy that can be called "pro-life"."


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