Bound and Gagged

From access to safe abortion, to discrimination based on sexual orientation, to contraceptive trends, to HIV prevention and treatment, the current issue of Conscience magazine underscores that at home and abroad, sexual and reproductive rights are threatened.

In their articles, John Callaghan and Amanda Ussak eloquently explore the future of the HIV & AIDS epidemic and the global coalition addressing it. In thinking about the direction of prevention and treatment, it’s critical to highlight the impact the Trump administration has already had on such efforts abroad.

UNAIDS estimates that 75 percent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among girls ages 15 to 19. These young women are hit the hardest by policies like Trump’s Global Gag Rule (GGR) that have impacted funding and services for HIV prevention.

Two days after assuming office, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy—also known as the GGR—and later expanded it to include all global health assistance, including global AIDS funding. The policy prohibits non-US organizations from receiving global health assistance if they provide, educate, advocate around or counsel on abortion services as a method of family planning, even if they use their own non-US funds to do so. Organizations that don’t comply risk losing US funding—and their ability to provide critical services.

We’re already seeing the detrimental impact this policy has on the fight against HIV & AIDS. The Mozambican Association for Family Development (AMODEFA), a sexual and reproductive health and rights organization in Mozambique, was forced to curtail many HIV and other programs. Before the GGR went into effect, its Xai-Xai clinic for girls and young women provided 5,621 HIV tests and 6,799 counseling sessions to reduce risk. After the policy’s expansion, it was only able to offer 833 of each service.

Callaghan and Ussak are correct that we must expand our notion of the face of the HIV & AIDS epidemic and remember the individuals affected in addressing it. The problem remains urgent, especially for the young women and girls affected by Trump’s cruel and inhumane policies.

Serra Sippel

President, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Washington, DC

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