28.4.04

This is bullshit...

Our government last year pledged unprecedented support to fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. This decision by the Bush administration was praised by conservative pundits hoping to spin him as a caring and compassionate president genuinely concerned for the health and stability of Africa. However, most people don't know that a third of that money has been earmarked for faith-based organizations that promote abstinence-only sex education (which CLEARLY doesn't work) and very few family planning innitiatives. And don't even get me started on the ways in which the Mexico City policy and American drug companies restrict to the point of worthlessness the rest of these allocated funds.

The latest example of George Bush failing Africa and the global community came this week when the administration announced that it would withdraw all government funding (Dept. of Health and Human Services, USAID) for the 31st annual Global Health Council Conference in Washington DC this June. This was the direct work of Republican congressmen and conservative lobby groups who claim that the conference promotes abortion. They argue that this money could be used for lobbying, and also point the finger at Moveon.org, a low-level, first-time sponsor of the conference.

Basically, I think this is bullshit, as I'm sure most of you do. But this hits me particularlly hard because this is my field of work. I went to the GHC conference last year and found it to be an amazingly educational experience. The conference attracts government officials, health care workers, non-profit groups, students, grass-roots activists and medical professionals from all over the world, many of whom are working on the front lines of a crisis that Americans don't want to think about and are witnesses to a deathtoll the magnitude of which we can barely comprehend. I had forgotten that our police state extended into my close-knit, idealist little world of international public health development. I hadn't realized that the free exchange of ideas and solutions to the most harrowing challenges facing the most vulnerable of the world's populations was a direct threat to anti-abortion groups. And silly me, I didn't realize that because a pro-democracy grassroots organization critical of our current administration had affiliated itself with this global institution, that our government would reactionarily withdraw over $170,000 worth of much needed support. Like I said, bullshit.

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