Friday, June 8, 2007

More Hype Without Details or any Chance of Real Follow Through

The recent G8 meetings have come to a close. As per usual they recognized that they didn't hit the goals set previously but pledged even more money this time around. Now this type of display is disgusting to say the least. These pledges are just that. If it is inconvenient or if one of the donor countries decides something is amiss they can easily (and usually do) pull out in part or entirely. Many in the development sphere are already calling this recent pledge a "farce."

Hypothetically, if the G8 does provide the money promised (60 billion alone for AIDS research, among other pledges) it will not be in the form that many would accept as reasonable. Anyone familiar with the Bush administration's past work on AIDS will know how disastrous and ill-informed the strict rules that come attached to the money. Because the U.S. pledged to donate 30 billion of this sum it is likely that they will have a large say in the contingencies and policies on which the money can be spent.

Among the most insulting of the ludicrous ties that AIDS money to Africa has endured in the past is the focus on abstinence. Much of the money was earmarked for groups that only push abstinence as a method of stopping the spread of AIDS. When the money goes through a recipient government there are strict "abstinence only" financing rules that must be followed for the money to keep coming in. This despite the fact that abstinence does not make sense when used alone as a method to prevent AIDS. Studies have continually found this to be true worldwide. I will acknowledge that it can play a minor role in an overall sexual health and well-being program. Use of only abstinence has been shown in many instances to not decrease the rate of transmission but has actually increased the rate of transmission by decreasing funding to other services. When abstinence becomes the focus of a government targeting teen and pre-teen boys and girls, other important issues like birth control methods, safe-sex practices and use of condoms falls aside.

These AIDS grants are also incomplete because one of the best ways to mitigate the devastating effects of AIDS is to drop the price of drugs that serve to decrease the effects of the actual virus. Also drugs that when taken by a child born to an HIV positive mother can severely decrease the chance of contracting AIDS. These steps are blocked at every turn by pharmaceutical companies that cite the cost of research of the drugs as the reason for the high prices. When these companies are having record breaking profits and at the same time receiving much of their R&D at highly subsidized rates from public universities and grants, they could at least take a "loss" (though the idea that they would take a loss is severely suspect) on these necessary drugs.

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