Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The wrong way to fight AIDS

I sighed deeply when coming across this article that talks about "faith-based groups" getting a fourth of the $15 billion that President Bush wants to spend combatting AIDS. The implication is that Bush is a right-wing religious extremist who's giving money to unqualified "conservative Christian allies." It's a stupid claim, especially when the real issue is that President Bush, Congress and the rest of the federal government have no Constitutional authority to spend that $15 billion that way.

It's not the place of the federal government to combat AIDS or any other disease. Congress, under Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution, doesn't have the authority to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus even for quarantining an outbreak -- that power is specifically limited to "Cases of Rebellion and Invasion." State constitutions and laws may have provisions for quarantines, but the point here is that the federal government, like with the vast majority of its spending, has no Constitutional basis for this action.

A few things really stood out:
"You have community organizations, some that have operated for decades, asking for money and you have lots of new organizations popping up," said Sarah Lucas, a development assistance expert who recently toured four countries on the U.S. target list for HIV/AIDS grants.
Naturally! Were you to give out a little money to a few children in Manila slums, you'd quickly see ten times more appear out of nowhere. Similarly, when the government is giving out other people's money, don't be surprised when new "philanthropists" start new groups to get their own piece of the action.
The U.S. government provided more than 560 million condoms abroad last year, compared with some 350 million in 2001.

Condom promotion to anyone must include abstinence and fidelity messages, U.S. guidelines say, but those preaching abstinence do not have to provide condom education.
After over two decades, abstinence and sexual fidelity remain the only guaranteed ways to not get AIDS (speaking strictly of sexual contact, not drug use or contamination). While condoms can greatly reduce the risk, even if they are used properly, there is still some risk.
Six congressional Democrats, in a letter last week to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, accused the conservatives of a distortion campaign that undermines a balanced approach to fighting AIDS.

"Their attack is based on a narrow, ideological viewpoint that condemns condoms and frames any attempt to reach out to high-risk populations as an endorsement of behaviors that these critics oppose," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
The problem with focusing on HIV/AIDS and condoms is that it ignores other sexually transmitted diseases, especially those that spread regardless of condom use. We might reduce HIV rates, but we could see a huge jump in human papillomavirus (HPV) cases, especially strains that cause cervical cancer.


Blogger CaptiousNut said...

Not to mention they should be promoting circumcision since it is more effective than almost everything at stunting the spread of AIDS.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006 8:37:00 PM  

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