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Blueprint For AIDS-Free Generation Must Allow HIV Funds To Be Used For Family Planning

In the Huffington Post’s “Politics” blog, Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, notes that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the XIX International AIDS Conference in July that all women should be able to decide “when and whether to have children” and that PEPFAR, in a guidance [.pdf] released last week, said, “Voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV,” and referred to family planning as a human right. “Then, in bold type, they punctuated it with, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities,'” she writes. “They take it a step further with a caveat that before anyone decides they’d like their program to have anything to do with family planning, they had best consult relevant U.S. legal counsel first,” she adds. “To be fair, they do say that PEPFAR programs can just refer women to a different program that offers family planning,” but those programs are not always available, Sippel writes, adding, “So the suggestion is flawed from the start.”

“Family planning is no stranger to political bargaining,” Sippel writes, continuing, “It’s happening yet again, and women’s lives are yet again being treated like expendable assets.” However, she says “[t]here is an opportunity to fix this” in the blueprint for an AIDS-free generation, commissioned by Clinton. “Now they need to pick up where PEPFAR left off and call for HIV funds to pay for family planning as part of HIV prevention and treatment,” Sippel states, adding, “If we’re sincere about this, we’ll fund it. If not, we’ve just revealed a very ugly side of ourselves.” She concludes, “We’re dangerously close to demonstrating that we value politics above all. It’s time for the State Department to … prove otherwise” (10/22).