CONSERVATIVE FORMER CONGRESSMAN TOM COBURN NAMED TO HEAD PRESIDENTIAL HIV/AIDS ADVISORY COUNCIL; EXPECTED TO FORM ALLIANCE WITH COUNCIL DIRECTOR TO PUSH SEXUAL ABSTIENCE
Controversial ex-Congressman Tom Coburn was appointed by President Bush to head the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS this week. Coburn and his conservative allies will be working with Patricia Funderburk Ware, Executive Director of the Council since November. Both Coburn and Ware are strong advocates of abstinence-only sex education as a means of HIV prevention, and Coburn fought hard in Congress for coercive public health measures including forced name reporting and contact tracing.
On the other hand, Coburn did call last week for more AIDS funding devoted to prevention efforts among minorities and other communities where the virus is spreading rapidly, according to the Associated Press. Coburn is known among advocates and activists as one who is legitimately concerned about AIDS, sometimes effective on funding issues, but deeply wrongheaded in his approach to prevention efforts. Coburn has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of condoms as a core HIV prevention tool, and is also known as a vehement anti-abortion crusader.
Funderburk Ware is also known as a strong conservative who promotes the abstinence-only sex education as her HIV prevention agenda. She writes that "without a conscious and focused emphasis on the tenets inculcated in the abstinence education approach -- sexual restraints tempered with moral and values, and a rebuilding of the two-parent family -- America will lose the battle of AIDS and babies having babies." Ms. Ware was a high level HHS official during the first Bush administration, working on teen pregnancy prevention. She has also argued strongly for HIV name reporting as a surveillance method.
Maybe on another planet abstinence-only education would work as a core HIV prevention tool, but here on Earth a lot of folks at risk for HIV infection are sexually active and not listening to the abstinence-only zealots. America needs real-work HIV prevention initiatives that accept that sex and drug use are not going away in most cases. This is not rocket science for most people involved in the HIV/AIDS field, but it apparently is not accepted by the two people President Bush has chosen to lead his Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
PHONE AND EMAIL ZAP: CALL PRESIDENT BUSH
TODAY AND TELL HIM YOU DON'T WANT
COBURN AS THE CHAIR OF THE AIDS ADVISORY COUNCIL.
Switchboard number: 202-456-1414
TELL HIM YOU ARE CONCERNED THAT TOM COBURN WILL PUSH HIS OWN AGENDA OF WHAT HE DEEMS APPROPORIATE FOR PREVENTION AND MAY ACTUALLY HURT AMERICANS ABILITY TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.
Coburn is an enemy of HIV+ women, whom he perceives solely as dangers to their unborn children. Coburn has been the leading proponent not only of mandatory infant testing (which only tests the mother), but of forced partner notification (which most negatively impacts women) and forced testing of pregnant women. He has used his role in RW reauthorization to promote these policies, by attaching money for the states to their implementation. In the minds of his colleagues, his professional status as an OB confers upon him infallibility where all things female, maternal and neonatal are concerned. He has no regard for the rights of HIV+ women and of how their circumstances are shaped by male power in their relationships with men, with medicine and with the state. He has not been willing to partner with feminist AIDS activists in designing comprehensive prevention and pre-testing outreach, nor to develop the kinds of complex programs that would facilitate women learning about their status in circumstances that enable them to address it and with control over how that information is used.
Tom Coburn, Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, introduced House Bill (HR. 1062) ironically entitled the "HIV Prevention Act of 1997". (Coburn achieved notoriety last year by denouncing the network broadcast of "Schindler's List" as indecent.)
The bill required that States do the following:
It provides no new money to finance any of these initiatives. It has only a nonbinding resolution to protect the confidentiality of test results. It provides no non-punitive HIV prevention measures, such as prevention campaigns directed to gay men. It makes no provision for following testing and notification with health care. It provides no money, for example, to make protease inhibitors available to those who test positive. (Protease inhibitors are still unaffordable and inaccessible for the majority of those with HIV.)
Rep. Coburn's testimony in support
of mandatory partner notification is especially interesting. Coburn
simply states, with absolutely no scientific basis (because there
is none) that partner notification is an effective means of reducing
the transmission of HIV, then continues with an emotional appeal
about monogamous women and their babies (i.e. the "innocent"
victims). It's clear what his goal is: not stopping the AIDS epidemic,
but a moralization of AIDS. But since doctors' and public health
officials' authority is rooted in the supposedly "scientific"
nature of their claims, I find it useful when discussing these
superficially convincing arguments with others to challenge the
science. In other words, instead of saying, "But don't you
see his political agenda?" I say, "But there are no
scientific studies showing partner notification actually works,
or that mandatory partner notification is better than voluntary,"
etc. In fact a recent study showed that partner notification did
not increase in with HIV names reporting, as opposed to anonymous
testing. Of course, these are arguments I make for potential allies.
I don't waste my breath arguing with those health bureaucrats
and politicians like Coburn, whose agenda has nothing to do with
finding an effective end to the AIDS epidemic.
The coded message (or one of them) in Coburn's report is advocating mandatory HIV names reporting, mandatory testing and mandatory partner notification. The claim that using AIDS instead of HIV surveillance data to allocate funds ignores the fact that data from names reporting is inaccurate as well, undercounting those who avoid testing and treatment.
Of course another tactic here is pitting groups against each other: the old gay men v. women and people of color tactic, but also the urban v. rural tactic. The old wrong assumption continues to be: "the same amount of money needs to be reallocated." Instead we need to demand more money, because the epidemic continues to expand.
AIDS experts slam Bush's choice
to lead anti-HIV effort
By Beth Berlo, Bay Windows, San Francisco
As a congressman, Tom Coburn, above,
railed against gays and homosexuality -- positions that AIDS experts
and gay groups say make him an inappropriate choice to lead the
nation´s AIDS efforts. His expected appointment, actvists
say, also debunks the notio
President Bush's expected appointment of a staunch conservative as co-chair to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS (PACHA) has resulted in a wave of protest among gay and AIDS activists.
With a history of being unswervingly pro-abstinence, anti-condom, anti-gay, and anti-abortion, former Oklahoma congressman Tom Coburn is the antithesis of who most AIDS activists say they want to see in one of the most influential positions on AIDS policy. But it's also, they say, an appointment they are not surprised by, as it seemingly falls in line with a roster of radically conservative and ``inappropriate" council appointments.
National Stonewall Democrats (NSD)
was one of the first groups to denounce Coburn's appointment.
Chad Johnson, NSD executive director, said the ``Bush Administration
knows that at the heart of its base is the radical, religious
Right. Despite this fact, Bush has done a masterful job of putting
moderate face while promoting policies well to the right of most Americans."
Johnson's biggest fear with Coburn and other appointments to the council, he said, is that the last eight years of progress on HIV/AIDS policy could be reversed. ``Many of President Bush's appointments to the council, including its co-chairs and executive director, are alarmingly anti-gay and anti safe-sex, and they in no way represent the balance of perspectives required to advance rational policy or to advise the President."
On Jan. 29, the NSD released its annual State of the Administration report to coincide with President Bush's State of the Union address. The 19-page report details the administration's refusal to address issues affecting gay and lesbian Americans and what the group described as its ``inept" leadership in public health and HIV/AIDS policy.``Like most Americans, we support the president in our country's war on terror; however, Bush's first year in office has been seriously deficient on other matters of interest to gay and lesbian citizens and people living with HIV/AIDS," Johnson stated.
Some of NSD's criticisms outlined in the report include Bush's failing to develop sound HIV/AIDS policy or demonstrate any serious commitment to attacking the epidemic; the administration's failure to secure equal treatment for same-sex surviving partners of Sept. 11 victims, and Bush's ``dismantling the White House liaison office to the gay and lesbian community."
Coburn's reputation as being against condoms resulted after activists say he misinterpreted a Centers for Disease Control report on their effectiveness. As a result, Coburn called on the firing of the director of the CDC because the organization promotes condom use to prevent transmission of HIV.
Boston's AIDS Action Committee Executive Director Larry Kessler reacted by saying he was ``pretty nervous" over Coburn's impending appointment. ``I don't think Coburn has particularly distinguished himself as a thinker," Kessler said. ``On many fronts, he's a conservative demagogue. Anybody working in AIDS knows you need to have a prism to look at the issues, not just a lens. I expect we will hear some fairly conservative approaches to a lot of things different than we have come to expect over the last 20 years."
Mostly, Kessler says, is that people who are pro-abstinence ``really believe `Just Say No' works." But if people are not going to abstain, he said, ``Then we have to figure out how to be safe."
Maureen O'Leary, executive director
of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, agrees: ``In a perfect
world, that would be the way to go. But
we have to be realistic. People are going to continue having sex. Our job is to make sex safe. Mr. Coburn is very much an abstinence advocate. He also has stated that homosexuality is immoral. I think that does not bode well for him heading a council that's going to have a great deal to do with diseases that affect a lot of gay people."
O'Leary, while disappointed there aren't more AIDS researchers on the council, said she's satisfied with many who are, namely Mary Fisher, who is HIV positive and has worked constructively for years to bring the Republican Party into the mainstream on HIV/AIDS issues, and Rev. Edwin Sanders II, known for his direct outreach to people living with AIDS and his efforts to legalize drugs and sterile needles. ``It's people like that who have been in the groundswell of AIDS work who will be good," she said.
But one of the most unchallenged reactions to Coburn's appointment from an AIDS activist is Washington D.C./ACT UP's Wayne Turner.
Even though Turner concedes to issues of fundamental disagreement with Coburn, he continues to plug him as an ally, citing Coburn's involvement with the Ryan White CARE Act. Coburn, he said, has maintained a productive working relationship with many HIV/AIDS activists. In addition, he says, people forget that through a new mandate introduced by Coburn, that 33 percent of the members of local Ryan White Title I Planning Councils must be clients who are not employees, board members, or paid consultants for groups receiving funding. It's something Turner calls a non-aligned provision that, he believes, has significantly strengthened patient participation and community oversight in the allocation of federal funds intended for HIV/AIDS treatment and care.
``Condoms have really gone off the map since Jocelyn Elders got fired," Turner said. ``And it's really since about 1995 that we haven't even had condoms in the bars anymore. ...With Coburn there, even bringing up the word condom, I think, is ultimately going to be a plus." PACHA, Turner said, ``has never produced anything of substance. So maybe having somebody like Coburn can stir things up again."
NATIONAL STONEWALL DEMOCRATS
NEWS RELEASE CONTACT: John Marble
January 28, 2002 firstname.lastname@example.org
NSD HARSHLY CRITICIZES BUSH APPOINTMENTS
TO AIDS COUNCIL
Anti-Gay, Unqualified People Selected for Council, Yet Praised by Log Cabin
"President Bush should be held accountable for his reckless anti-gay and anti safe-sex appointments to the council . . . NSD has redoubled its efforts to hold fellow Democrats accountable for their actions - and not just blindly praise them. We call on Log Cabin to do the same." - Chad Johnson, NSD Executive Director.
WASHINGTON, DC - The National Stonewall Democrats today expressed grave concern with President Bush's nominations to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS (PACHA). While President Bush has made some appropriate appointments to the council, the group as a whole is riddled with unqualified and unacceptable selections.
"These poor choices, coupled with the fact that PACHA has remained inactive for over a year, demonstrate that HIV/AIDS policy is nowhere near a priority for the Bush Administration," said Chad Johnson, NSD Executive Director. "Anyone who praises these appointments as purely positive developments for the gay and HIV/AIDS communities misleads the public."
The Log Cabin Republicans recently issued a press release praising President Bush for his council appointments, including those who are unambiguously anti-gay and unqualified.
NSD gladly recognizes that Bush has included a few bright and qualified appointees. For instance, appointee Mary Fisher, an HIV-positive woman, has worked constructively for years to bring the Republican Party into the mainstream on HIV/AIDS issues, and Rev. Edwin Sanders, II, is known for his direct outreach to people living with AIDS and for his efforts to legalize drugs, including for medical use. However, President Bush stacks the council with campaign contributors, anti safe-sex advocates and other individuals with little, or no, background in HIV/AIDS public policy or science.
"President Bush should be held accountable for his reckless anti-gay and anti safe-sex appointments to the council, as well as praised for his good selections," said Johnson. "NSD has redoubled its efforts to hold fellow Democrats accountable for their actions - and not just blindly praise them. We call on Log Cabin to do the same. As long as LCR misleads the public by praising the Bush Administration for these improper and dangerous selections to the council, it does a disservice to our community."
With these council appointments, the White House is jeopardizing the scientific expertise and diversity of the panel. Many appointees' records are contrary to the mission of the council. The group appears to have no new representation from the research community, the critical people working towards new treatments, a vaccine and a cure. In addition, one drug company, Pfizer, will be disproportionately represented by two members -- with no representatives from competing pharmaceutical companies. The council is also less ethnically diverse than ever before, and much less representational of the demographics most affected by HIV and AIDS.
The most disturbing appointments to the council were made in its leadership positions. President Bush named Pat Ware to be the council's executive director and tapped former Congressman Tom Coburn as one of the council's two co-chairs. Both individuals are widely known for their anti-gay beliefs and their work promoting short-sighted and unrealistic abstinence-only education programs. Among other outrageous actions, Coburn has called for the firing of the head of the Centers for Disease Control, as the CDC promotes condom use to stop the transmission of HIV. The council's other co-chair, Dr. Louis Sullivan, former HHS Secretary in the George Bush Administration, has had a mixed background on HIV/AIDS issues.
"The Coburn appointment as council co-chair is astoundingly shameful and should be roundly attacked by Log Cabin and other gay and lesbian political groups," said Johnson. "Coburn's voting record in Congress was consistently anti-gay and contrary to sound HIV/AIDS policy, making his appointment a particularly painful slap in the face to Americans living with HIV/AIDS."
In addition, the appointment of multiple, single-issue abstinence advocates to the council will likely undermine a balanced approach to the multifaceted problems related to the epidemic. While abstinence may be one method for consideration, the council should bring together appointees with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, particularly qualified people from the research, medical, education, counseling, and other relevant communities. The council should also include an appropriate group of leaders from the community of people living with HIV/AIDS.
President Bush's appointments to PACHA include the following:
Tom Coburn, Co-Chair
Former Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) received a 0% Congressional voting rating in all three of his terms from the Human Rights Campaign. In addition to his poor record on issues of concern to the gay and lesbian community, Coburn consistently voted against needed HIV/AIDS legislation. Coburn also called for the firing of the Director of the Centers for Disease Control because the CDC promotes condom use to prevent transmission of the HIV virus. Rich Tafel, Executive Director of LCR, has called Coburn's past votes "morally wrong and politically dangerous." (Washington Blade, May 07, 1999)
Louis Sullivan, Co-Chair
Dr. Louis Sullivan was HHS Secretary for President George Bush. Sullivan is known for addressing HIV/AIDS issues in communities of color, and for supporting needle exchange efforts. However, as HHS Secretary, Sullivan extended the Bush Administration's ban on allowing HIV-positive people, and gays and lesbians, from entering the country. Sullivan also encouraged HIV-positive people, and gay men, to stop having sex. As HHS Secretary, Sullivan argued for guidelines that would have prevented HIV-positive surgeons and dentists from operating, and he repressed a government study on suicide among gay teens so that it would not be linked to the Bush Administration. Sullivan's relationship with a scam artist, who claimed to have a vaccine for AIDS, was used to swindle millions out of investors before Sullivan realized that the vaccine did not exist.
Pat Ware, Executive Director.
Ware's appointment is disturbing due to her advocacy that undermines safe-sex education and that shifts away money from prevention efforts in the gay community.
Ware has been associated with anti-gay organizations such as the Family Research Council and is most closely linked to her work with Americans for a Sound HIV/AIDS Policy (ASAP), which has since changed its name to the Children's AIDS Fund. ASAP was an abstinence-only organization opposed to most HIV/AIDS education and prevention measures. ASAP also lobbied against including HIV and AIDS in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Ware herself is a strong abstinence-only proponent, lobbying against any effort that promotes education and protection over abstinence. Ware is also opposed to condom use. Pat Ware has advocated that the government shiftaway funds from groups that serve gays and towards abstinence-only education. At the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia, Ware referenced the "innocent babies" infected with HIV, a comment that implied that others are "guilty" victims of the epidemic.
Dr. Joe McIlaney is the founder and director of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (MISH) in Austin, Texas. MISH is an abstinence and anti safe-sex organization. Dr. McIlaney is most noted for his repeated attacks against the idea of using condoms to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Among his books, McIlaney co-wrote The Myth of Safe Sex with James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family (which runs a prominent ex-gay ministry). McIlaney frequently interprets medical statistics for his own liking, and those interpretations are often used by anti-gay groups. On November 15, 2001, McIlaney testified before Congress to promote abstinence. McIlaney also enjoyed influence over the state health curriculum while George W. Bush was Governor of Texas.
As a young person, Rashida Jolley has given much to her community. Jolley was named Miss District of Columbia in the year 2000. She is a college student and sexual abstinence advocate. Jolley travels with a group of beauty pageant winners promoting abstinence for Project Reality, an abstinence organization.
After promoting the administration's faith-based initiatives, and interning with the Heritage Foundation, President Bush appointed her to PACHA. A biography of Ms. Jolley states that she hopes to become an attorney or a professional harpist. While Ms. Jolley has done much to better her community, she still does not bring the level of expertise on HIV/AIDS issues that would benefit the council.
Dandrick Moton, 25, is a man whose background in HIV/AIDS policy consists of traveling with his mother as dual motivational speakers to promote abstinence for youth until marriage.
Anita Smith is the co-founder of the Children AIDS Fund (formally Americans for a Sound HIV/AIDS Policy). Smith has stated that her organization "believes abstinence is the only true prevention." (Family Voice, July/August 2001). Smith's organization lobbied against including HIV/AIDS status in the Americans With Disabilities Act. The organization has also pushed to take money from prevention efforts in the gay community and reassign it to less effective efforts. Smith has also worked extensively to promote abstinence-only programs.
Smith has appeared in articles by the Concerned Women for America, who have lobbied to keep gay men off the council. Referencing potential appointments to the council, Concerned Women for America stated:
"What we have here, frankly, is a power struggle between homosexual white men who have used all the government AIDS programs fundamentally to fund their subculture and political activities, versus the other dominate demographic group who's suffering from AIDS, - namely, black women." (Battle Underway of AIDS Panel, Family News in Focus. October 29, 2001).
Joseph Jennings is a motivational
speaker, and former gang leader, who travels the country speaking
to children about drugs and violence. Jennings' background in
HIV/AIDS comes mostly from telling teenagers to abstain from sex.
Jennings is a frequent speaker for Acquire The Fire youth conferences.
Acquire The Fire, organized by TeenMania Ministries, promotes
among other issues, religious conversion as a cure for homosexuality
and sexual abstinence until marriage.
Conservatives Scuttle AIDS Activist's
By Lawrence Morahan CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer December 27, 2001
(CNSNews.com) - Conservatives say their behind-the-scenes lobbying was responsible for blocking the nomination of Mary Fisher to chair the president's Advisory Council on AIDS.
As the mother of two children, it was Fisher who first dramatically brought home to many Americans the reality of living with AIDS when she took the podium at the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992 to announce she had contracted HIV from her husband. She has campaigned for HIV/AIDS awareness since then.
However, in recent years, Fisher's views about how to handle the AIDS crisis have collided with the views of conservatives.
"Unfortunately, [Fisher] drew all the wrong lessons from her own experience and has advocated the 'civil rights' approach to the AIDS epidemic favored by the homosexual lobby," said a statement by Concerned Women for America, a conservative group opposed to Fisher.
The decision not to nominate Fisher to chair the council was condemned by her former colleagues. "I think it's a shame that someone living with HIV/AIDS is not being given the opportunity to lead the presidential council," said Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, a member of the council under President Clinton.
"Ms. Fisher has shown extraordinary courage and prophetic insight into the pandemic, and I'm shocked that her leadership will not be used. The fact that the other candidates are not persons living with HIV/AIDS at this point in the pandemic is abhorrent," Edelheit added.
Fisher fell into disfavor with many conservatives for her strenuous opposition to public health measures - considered common sense approaches by many - such as HIV reporting, contact tracing and partner notification.
Last year she boycotted an address to the Republican National Convention by Patricia Funderburk Ware, a leading advocate of these measures to fighting AIDS.
Ware is the new executive director of the council, Bush administration officials announced last week. She is the former director of educational services for Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy and served as director of the Office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services during the first Bush administration.
Tommy Thompson, HHS secretary, said Ware's "diverse experience and commitment to helping individuals revitalize their lives and communities will help further the council's initiatives."
Now the leading candidates for the council's chairmanship are former HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan and former U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn. Both are physicians and both are acceptable to conservatives, although Coburn is preferred because of his leadership on the issue during his tenure in Congress, CWA said.
Fisher's husband has died. Her two sons are HIV negative
Powell Urges Condom Use
By Peter Slevin and Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 15, 2002; Page A01, FEDERAL PAGE/ The Administration
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell strongly advocated condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS yesterday, setting himself apart from President Bush's views on sex education and angering some of the president's closest supporters on the political right.
"It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about," Powell told an MTV music channel audience. "It's the lives of young people that are put at risk by unsafe sex. And, therefore, protect yourself."
Powell's remarks, aired last night on MTV and scheduled for rebroadcast around the globe, are consistent with U.S. support of international AIDS prevention programs. But they appeared to diverge from the message delivered by the president and other administration officials that abstinence from unmarried sex is the principal weapon against the spread of the deadly human immunodeficiency virus.
The secretary of state's comments prompted a round of hisses and cheers. Ken Connor, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said Powell's remarks were "reckless and irresponsible" and a "slap in the face" to the president's core constituency.
Powell is "skilled in areas of diplomacy," said Gary Bauer, former Republican presidential candidate and president of American Values, but on "public health issues, he should follow the lead of the Bush administration, which he serves." Bauer said condoms give teenagers a false sense of security, a view shared by Tom Coburn, new chairman of Bush's advisory commission on AIDS.
But Marsha Martin, director of the liberal advocacy group AIDS Action, said of Powell, "We want to salute him and say, 'Bravo!' He is a member of the Bush administration, so I would say we are getting perhaps a new message and a welcome message about HIV prevention."
The president has remained elliptical in his public statements about condom use, instead touting abstinence as the preferred mode of prevention. Last summer, then-Surgeon General David Satcher drew the ire of White House officials with a detailed report on sexuality that said there is no evidence that abstinence-only teaching works.
At the time, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer distanced the administration from Satcher, noting that the surgeon general had been appointed by President Bill Clinton. Referring to Bush, Fleischer added: "The president continues to believe that abstinence and abstinence education is the most effective way to prevent AIDS, to prevent unwanted pregnancy."
As conservatives cranked up their fax machines to criticize Powell, administration spokesmen said Powell's message was consistent with existing White House policy.
Fleischer yesterday drew a distinction between young people who have not had sex and others who have. Powell, he said, "limited his answer to people who are sexually active."
State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher drew the same distinction and said: "Any attempt to find difference between him and administration policy is obviously misplaced. He does support the entire policy of the administration, including abstinence education."
The MTV broadcast featured Powell with a Washington studio audience and connected by satellite with young people in six television studios around the world. Powell, who had no advance warning of the questions, stood on a symbol of the globe and answered at length, discussing administration choices on subjects from Kashmir to al Qaeda and pitching a view of U.S. foreign policy as principled and humane.
One question came from 19-year-old Daniela Satori in Milan.
"As a young Catholic woman,"
she said in Italian through an interpreter, "I would like
to know from the secretary of state what he thinks of the
Catholic position on condoms, which are prohibited, and therefore this condemns anyone who might be exposed to this virus."
Powell talked of his respect for Pope John Paul II, and then of bitter numbers of AIDS victims worldwide. "I certainly respect the view of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. In my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection," he said. "Therefore, I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active and need to protect themselves."
To another question, Powell said the administration and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan are working together to persuade international drug companies to lower the prices of drug "cocktails" that have proven effective against HIV. He said drug companies deserve a return on their investment in experimental medicines.
"I would like to see it free, but as an economic matter, we haven't quite achieved that goal and I'm not sure we will," Powell told Rosa Maria Benitz, 28, a Brazilian who is HIV-positive. He praised her for standing up in public and talking about the disease.
The Bush administration does not have a unified policy on condoms and sexually transmitted diseases. Rather, health staffers characterize the strategy as a "continuum of tactics."
In this fiscal year, the administration is spending $12 billion on education, prevention, treatment and research related to HIV/AIDS, said Bill Pierce, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman. Almost $1 billion is distributed to the states for an array of educational programs that may include discussions of protected sex with condoms. Some foreign aid is also spent on condom distribution.
"Generically speaking, there are no restrictions regarding condoms," Pierce said. "The administration believes that abstinence education needs to be raised up to an equal level with all other types of health education."
Some AIDS projects, including the Ryan White program, would not receive any increase under the proposed budget, but abstinence-only programs would grow ,33 percent under the Bush blueprint to $135 million.
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