The Rumor Mill

I like well sourced information that I can reliably pass along to our site’s readers to keep them informed. Think you’ve got something interesting and verifiable? Try me out.

RUMOR MILL: No Unwanted Pregnancies In the Bush Administration

Rumor Mill understands that USAID circulated a memo to its contractors working in reproductive health telling them not to use the term "unwanted pregnancy," because our government doesn't think there is any such thing. The instructions explain that "none of God's children is unwanted." No, but a pregnancy at the wrong time might be. Imagine a woman in Uganda struggling to feed six kids and pregnant with her seventh because she couldn't get access to contraceptives. How can we prevent abortion if the Bush Administration won’t even acknowledge unintended pregnancy?

Rumor Mill: UNFPA Likely Target for Plan B Backlash

If I were President Bush, the world would be a better place.  No, no, no that’s not what I meant to say.  If I were President Bush and had just pissed off my social conservative base with Plan B, I would be looking for something to appease them.  What could be easier than the other whipping child issue – UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.  Look for the Administration’s coming decision to once again block the funds that Congress intended for UNFPA  – funds for contraception, HIV prevention and safe deliveries to the world’s poorest countries. Look, too, for the decision to be based on the need to create political cushion rather than any sort of substance.

Rumor Mill: UNFPA Funding Causing New Problems This Year

The word was that the Bush Administration would make it’s decision last month about whether to release the money Congress intended for UNFPA this year. But they seem to be on the slow boat to China determining if the dollars should flow. Maybe that is because UNFPA has been slow to spend any money in China this year, which gets in the way of the Administration’s excuses. The Administration uses UNFPA’s program in China as the reason to not fund voluntary reproductive health programs in over 140 other countries. Makes it sort of tricky to dress your political act in policy clothing if there aren’t any threads to wear.

Former Bush Aide Censored on Comments Critical of Administration’s Efforts on HIV/AIDS

The Rumor Mill is hearing that Scott Evertz, former AIDS Czar for the Bush Administration, was forced to cancel all pending media interviews as a result of interference and intimidation from government officials.  We understand government officials contacted his place of employment and urged that he stop speaking out. As we reported earlier this week, Mr. Evertz was speaking out against the current efforts by the U.S. delegation at the UN, stating the Bush administration has reached out to Islamic governments, including those it considers terrorist states, to promote a new declaration supporting abstinence and fidelity as important tools in preventing the spread of HIV. As we have reported all week, it appears the US has successfully used this alliance to block more inclusive language being promoted by Latin American nations and India, and public health advocates that were included in these meetings as Civil Society Organizations.

Who Prevents Progress at UN AIDS Meeting?

The media is getting part of the story from the UN HIV/AIDS meetings, and as much as this blog has been active in holding the US accountable for those members of its delegation that hold narrow ideological perspectives, the US alone is not solely responsible for the current state of negotiations.

Gabon, the current chair of the African Group is chairing a bloc of nations, but apparently in name only. In fact, there is an official African Union position that supports more aggressive positions that Gabon is ignoring. Nigeria deserves creidt for breaking from the pack and asserting that this is the moment the global community must hold one another accountable.

UN HIV Negotiation Process Unprecedented

"This process is unprecedented in its lack of clarity, it is clear that the process is being made up as it goes along," was the comment made by one NGO representative with a long history of such negotiations at the UN. Still another experienced UN negotiator said "there is no clear understanding among the member nations of the language as it exists now, just bits and pieces -- the entire process is a disaster." But the process is grinding to a halt just as governmental representatives are arriving to join the negotiations on the declaration, assuming there will be a declaration to sign. Or is it? The Rumor Mill is hearing all of this and more from sources involved in negotiations.

Are the Conservative Ideologues Hiding?

While rumors of the US taking a negotiating stand promoting "evidence-informed" as opposed to "evidence-based" research escalates at meetings about the greatest public heatlh crisis known to humankind, the conservative ideologues who back such language are "evidence-invisible."They have not even applied to participate in any of the public forums where their ideas could heard and debated.  

At the recently concluded hearing of Civil Society and governmental representatives, not one NGO spoke in favor the abstinence-only until marriage policies that others were complaining about. No one with a conservative perspective was there to explain why condoms are bad, to show the "evidence" that "informs" their ideology or to articulate clearly why public health data should not be the basis for decisions about the AIDS pandemic.

The Rumor Mill: Who Needs Evidence Anyway?

Negotiations on final language for the political declaration at the UNGASS on AIDS are not going well.

Perhaps adding to the tension is one bit of language that the US delegation is suggesting: they want to change "evidence-based" (as in "evidence-based sexuality education," "evidence-based prevention efforts," etc.) to "evidence-informed."

Evidence-informed?!  Imagine the ramifications of such a document -- one that is supposed to be providing guidance for international response to HIV/AIDS...  "Yes, we're aware of the evidence.  We have been informed.  But we'd rather not do it that way."

As the public health community continues to voice its concern about the triumph of ideology over science (perhaps now over reason as well?), this news suggests that the US delegation is not listening. 

The Rumor Mill: Syria & US Team Up For UN AIDS Meeting

There are growing reports that the United States and a handful of other countries are objecting to certain language (e.g. reference to condoms, sexual and reproductive health – the usual!) in negotiations for a political declaration at next week’s UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS. The U.S. negotiating posture is hardly new…nor are its allies in this fight. It seems that the United States’ main ally at the United Nations this week during negotiations on HIV/AIDS has been Syria – yes, the same country that the Administration has declared to be part of the "Axis of Evil."

Rumor Mill hears that the emerging “Axis of Ideology” includes other fundamentalist representatives, all of which want to ignore the evidence as it relates to the importance of human rights, gender equality, comprehensive sexuality education, and sexual and reproductive health services in the fight to stem HIV/AIDS. Apparently, where science is concerned, the axis adheres to a strict, abstinence-only posture.

The Rumor Mill: Kilpatrick Fighting for UNFPA

Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI) plans to stand up for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, by introducing an amendment during House Appropriations Committee foreign operations mark up May 25. Recognizing that the Administration has stretched the law the past four years to find reason to not release the Congressionally-appropriated funds to UNFPA, Kilpatrick’s office is working around it. Her amendment says if the Administration wants to withhold the funds again, the $34 million in the bill for UNFPA will go specifically to obstetric fistula prevention and treatment. Stay tuned.