Faulty reasoning shouldn’t threaten PEPFAR

One of the main opponents to the re-authorization of PEPFAR has been Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC).  DeMint has consistently and vociferously voiced his opposition to the $50 billion cost of the bill.  He’s now proposing an amendment that would reduce the PEPFAR funding to $35 billion.  According to the Kaiser Network,

DeMint said that the $50 billion level could shift PEPFAR’s focus away from HIV/AIDS to a wide range of development activities. “It’s no longer an Africa bill,” he said, adding, “It’s no longer an HIV bill.”

Even assuming that DeMint’s basic point is valid — it’s not like HIV/AIDS is a big enough problem to use up $50 billion, and what’s so wrong with other “development activities” anyway? — his specific criticisms just don’t make sense.

First, PEPFAR never was “an Africa bill.”  Just check the official website: as this map shows, existing PEPFAR funds are being used all over the world (these countries are shaded blue on the map).  While 13 out of PEPFAR’s 15 target countries are in Africa, even this list also includes Guyana (South America) and Haiti (Caribbean).  Besides, why should the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief be “an Africa bill”?  Africa is not the only part of the world where HIV/AIDS is causing devastation.  (For a quick guide to AIDS as a global problem, check out this page from the BBC — the numbers are a little out of date, but it gives a good overview.)

Second, to say that spending money on a “range of development activities” would keep PEPFAR from functioning as “an HIV bill” doesn’t hold water.  HIV/AIDS cannot be isolated from other development and humanitarian problems; trying to do so is both hopelessly naive and potentially deadly.  Consider just a few examples:

  • Trying to fight AIDS without investing in health care more generally just doesn’t make sense, if for no other reason than because it’s opportunistic infections that actually kill AIDS patients.
  • Access to food is a huge factor in HIV/AIDS care and treatment.  Not only is adequate nutrition essential to general health, but many AIDS medications must be taken with food.
  • One important factor in HIV/AIDS prevention is education.  According to a report from UNAIDS and others, “Studies show that educated women are more likely to know how to prevent HIV infection, to delay sexual activity and to take measures to protect themselves. Education also accelerates behaviour change among young men, making them more receptive to prevention messages. Universal primary education is not a substitute for expanded HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, but it is a necessary component that complements these efforts.”

I just thought it was worth pointing out that DeMint’s arguments are seriously flawed.  There’s no excuse for trying to keep the US from doing everything it can to help the millions of people suffering with HIV/AIDS and other global tragedies.

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~ by h.e.g. on July 15, 2008.

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