Europe, led by the UK, last night signalled a major split with the United States over curbing the Aids pandemic in a statement that tacitly urged African governments not to heed the abstinence-focused agenda of the Bush administration.
The statement, released for World Aids Day today, emphasises the fundamental importance of condoms, sex education and access to reproductive health services
The US has pledged $15bn (£8.6bn) over five years to fight the disease, most of which is channelled through the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar). Pepfar grants come with conditions, however - two thirds of the money has to go to pro-abstinence programmes, and it is not available to any organisations with clinics that offer abortion services or even counselling. The US is also opposed to the provision of needles and syringes to drug users on the grounds that it could be construed as encouraging their habit.
But the statement from 22 EU member states, released at a meeting under the UK presidency in London yesterday, calls on developing world governments to use every prevention tool, from condoms to clean needles to sexual health clinics, in a bid to slow down the spread of HIV. UNAids' latest figures show 40 million people are now infected, and the rate is rising as fast as ever.
"In reality, people have sex ... much as conservative evangelists in the US might prefer that they didn't," said Andrew George, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on international development.
Meanwhile the evangelicals had their own AIDS conference to coincide with World AIDS Day. They have decided to take on AIDS here in the US.
A spokemans for "the Human Rights Campaign Foundation — a leading gay rights organization — said he welcomed the outreach as long as it wasn't judgmental."
I wouldn't be as welcoming. I just can't see evangelicals doing their work without judgement. If they do here, what they've done in Africa, it certainly will be a step backwrds.