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By John Jalsevac

July 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A hugely expanded version of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been passed by both the House and the Senate, and President Bush has indicated that he is eager to sign the legislation as soon as possible.

In a 303-115 vote in the House on Thursday, legislation was passed that would triple the size of the PEPFAR program. The program was first initiated in 2003, and involved a commitment of $15 billion over 5 years to help fight the scourge of AIDS internationally. The new $48 billion bill nearly triples the U.S. government’s financial commitment to the program.

“I thank members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for working with my administration to pass this important bill, and I will be honored to sign it into law next week,” Bush said in his radio address last week.

Of significant concern to pro-life and pro-family activists is the fact that the new legislation scraps a former requirement that one-third of the 20% of PEPFAR’s funds allocated for AIDS-prevention should be spent on abstinence programs.

Earlier this year Democrats managed to remove that requirement, and to replace it instead with what is said to be a “compromise.” The new legislation requires simply that, should funding for abstinence programs fall below a certain level, a report should be made to Congress justifying the decrease in funding.

Republican Chris Smith, well-know to pro-life and pro-family advocates for his heroic defense of  life and family, has given his support to the revised version of PEPFAR. Smith and other pro-life legislators valiantly fought

against the Democratic majority to improve the legislation and were successful in gaining significant concessions. “On the prevention side, the legislation requires that the Global AIDS Coordinator provide balanced funding for sexual transmission prevention including abstinence, delay of sexual debut, monogamy, fidelity and partner reduction,” explained Rep. Smith in a statement to the House in April.

Smith voted in favor of the new version of PEPFAR last week.

However, not all are as willing to accept the legislation. In a report on the “compromise” PEPFAR legislation, The Heritage Foundation charged that in removing the explicit 33%-abstinence-funding requirement, legislators are requiring an inadequate, “vague promise to fund undefined ‘behavioral change programs’ in a ‘meaningful and equitable way.’”

In an opinion piece on the matter, LifeSiteNews writer Matthew Hoffman expressed his concerns that PEPFAR, in its newest and vaguer incarnation, “could become the biggest financial bonanza in history for the population control movement.”

“The bill’s huge increase will literally flood ‘family planning’ organizations with new money for condom promotion and distribution,” wrote Hoffman, “and allow them to shift their existing funds used for condom programs to other contraceptive programs, such as abortifacient birth control pills and other methods that kill the unborn, which are not covered by current funding restrictions.”

The passage of PEPFAR was also cast in a shadow several weeks ago, after Sam L. Ruteikara, the co-chair of Uganda’s AIDS-prevention coalition published a scathing column in the Washington Post. Ruteikara alleged that PEPFAR monies would accomplish little if international AIDS-prevention programs continue to be run by “profiteers” whose sole “solution” to the AIDS epidemic is to deluge Africa with ever more contraceptives, and then to provide expensive anti-retroviral treatment drugs when they find that AIDS rates continue to climb.

In a subsequent interview with LifeSiteNews, Ruteikara reiterated his belief, borne out by his experience with the successful Ugandan ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful, use a Condom) program, that the solution to AIDS is primarily through encouraging behaviour change – that is, by educating Africans to abandon their dangerous sexual practices and to embrace abstinence and fidelity as the surest means to avoid infection.

“Hear my plea, HIV-AIDS profiteers,” wrote Ruteikara in his article in the Post. “Let my people go. We understand that casual sex is dear to you, but staying alive is dear to us. Listen to African wisdom, and we will show you how to prevent AIDS.

  See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

U.S. House Bill Could Be Biggest Bonanza in History For Population Control Movement
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08040413.html

Let My People Go, AIDS Profiteers
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jul/08072101.html

Interview With a World Leader in AIDS-Prevention
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jul/08072104.html

Revised Global AIDS Program Emphasizes Abstinence and Fidelity
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/apr/08040205.html

Tanzanian President: Bush’s AIDS Program with Abstinence Provision is Saving Lives
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/feb/08021808.html

Pro-Family Forces Achieve Compromise to Allow Continuation of Abstinence Education in Massive US AIDS Program
https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/feb/08022909.html

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