The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking

By Noy Thrupkaew

This article appeared in the October 5, 2009 edition of The Nation.
September 16, 2009

This article is the first part of a two-part series. The next installment will explore alternative approaches to addressing the problem of trafficking for the purposes of forced prostitution.
–The Editors

Gary Haugen is cradling the padlocks in his thick hands. A former high school football player–bristly crew cut, broad shoulders squeezed into a dress shirt–Haugen has more the mien of a military man than a lawyer, although his image is in keeping with the muscular work of the organization he founded and heads. The president of the International Justice Mission, an evangelical Christian organization devoted to combating human rights abuses in the developing world, Haugen is musing over the mementos of IJM’s work in India and Cambodia. The padlocks look ordinary enough: heavy brass, a squat square one, a round one with a key. But they had once hung on the doors of brothels, until local law enforcement busted the establishments in raids initiated by IJM. Continue reading

LV: STRYPER Guitarist To Marry Former High-Class Prostitute

June 2, 2009

Guitarist Oz Fox of reactivated Christian hard rockers STRYPER will marry Annie Lobért, a 41-year-old former call girl who founded the international Christian ministry Hookers for Jesus, on June 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lobért (pictured below) worked for 11 years as a prostitute and escort in Las Vegas, which included catering to celebrities and professional athletes.

Lobért gives lectures in both secular and religious communities on the effects of the adult entertainment industry. Additionally, she has been heard on talk radio and interviewed in major news publications throughout the world, including the U.K., France, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and Africa. She is the author of “Hooker for Jesus”, a soon-to-be-released autobiography targeting both secular and religious audiences.

Original and videos on Roadrunner’s Blabbermouth

AZ: Neighbors complain about sexually-oriented temple

by Peter Corbett – Feb. 26, 2009 04:17 PM
The Arizona Republic

Police have investigated a sexually oriented temple operating in a downtown Scottsdale home after complaints from neighbors.

Scottsdale police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said police visited the Phoenix Goddess Temple last week to investigate a complaint that it was a house of prostitution but could not determine if the allegations were true.

A city zoning code enforcement case, which started in October, is separate from the more recent police visit to the property at 68th Street and Exeter Boulevard.

The temple plans to move to Phoenix next month because its residential property is not large enough for a church under Scottsdale’s zoning code, said Tracy Elise, temple mother priestess.

The temple has drawn police attention because its tenets connect spirituality and sexuality and it employs sexual healers and teaches its members about tantric sexual techniques.

“It’s perceived as a sex church,” Elise said. Continue reading

Born to Be a Woman of God

December 22, 2008
Ade Mardiyati

On a dreary morning in Yogyakarta, in a brick house, some 10 meters from the main road in Gedong Tengen, Notoyudan hamlet, an 8-year-old girl is folding yellow paper napkins with a friend. They work slowly, whispering comments about boys and giggling as they form perfect little paper triangles.

“Mom, how many of these napkins should I cut and fold?” the 8-year-old calls out to a woman wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and Muslim headscarf.

“Make it 40,” the woman answers. “There will be a lot of people coming today.”

The girl’s mother, Mariyani, is a transvestite.

In July, Mariyani established Indonesia’s first pesantren for transvestites.

By definition a pesantren is an Islamic boarding school. Mariyani uses the word pointedly, to improve her Continue reading

World AIDS Conference under way in Mexico City

Charlie Butts – OneNewsNow – 8/6/2008 12:00:00 PM

The World AIDS Conference in Mexico City is under way, and a couple of Christians — one a ministry leader and the other a journalist — are offering their perspective of the conference.

According to their reports, the conference does more to promote the homosexual lifestyle than it does to deal effectively with the worldwide aids situation. Bruce Sonnenberg of He Intends Victory ministry says many at the conference are in need of Jesus.

“…I mean there’s booths here that promote homosexuality and [there are] booths that promote condoms, a booth that promotes sex workers or prostitutes. There’s cross dressers and [there are] just a lot of people who need to hear that Jesus loves them,” he maintains.

Dan Wooding of Assist News Service describes the conference as having a “circus atmosphere.”

A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that HIV infections among homosexual men have risen 75 percent over the last decade and a half (see related video report). Sonnenberg and Wooding say that means the education approach has not worked, and they believe what is needed is a lifestyle change.

CA: Ex-prostitute reaches out to girls still on streets


IN THE EARLY morning hours, Dee Dee Perry gets in her car and does “spiritual drive-bys” along International Boulevard in East Oakland.

She drives up and down the busy corridor known as the “track” looking to proselytize to prostitutes. That’s exactly how Perry was saved nearly 20 years ago from her life on the streets: Church workers convinced her to give up prostitution and to kick her drug habit.

“I will pop a U-turn in the middle of the street,” said Perry, 45. “I have to let them know that there is hope and they don’t have to live like this.”

Perry is a member of Victory Outreach Church in West Oakland and is actively involved in the church’s Twilight Treasures ministry, which targets women and children involved in prostitution. Almost every night of the week, Perry passes out fliers promoting messages of love, faith and recovery.

“A lot of the girls aren’t ready to accept the Lord,” she said. “I just try to talk to them and give them a chance to think about what they want to do with their lives.”

Perry and faith-based organizations are doing their part along with city and county agencies to address the city’s problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Perry is determined to reach girls as young as 11 and 12 who are peddled for sex on the streets and on the Internet. She hopes that by sharing her testimony as a former prostitute it will inspire girls to break away from the grip of their pimps who often rape, beat and manipulate them into the sex trade.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” is what Perry tells many of the girls she meets wearing short shorts and tight miniskirts. “I’m living proof that it’s possible to change.”Rock bottom


In the early morning hours one day in 1991, a church worker from Victory Outreach found Perry on “the track” at International Boulevard and 104th Avenue. She had hit rock bottom after 20 years of prostituting and using crack cocaine. Through the church, Perry was able to get off the streets and get connected to counseling services.

“I had to do a lot of soul-searching to figure out what took place,” Perry said. “And I’m still soul-searching.”

Perry said she first became involved with prostitution when she set up a call-girl service with friends in grammar school. Perry said growing up she mainly dated men who could be her “sugar daddy” and take care of her and buy her nice things.

“I wanted the money,” she said. “That’s the mentality that led me one step closer to the prostitution lifestyle.”

By the time Perry was 23, she was a functioning crack addict. She said she would get high in the restroom at her job at the phone company and then go back and sit at her desk to work. She supported her drug habit by prostituting herself in Oakland with runs to Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego.

“I was an outlaw,” Perry said. “I never had a pimp and I recruited other girls.”

Perry said it used to be a thrill to take a girl to a hotel and know she was going to come out and hand over $500 to her. Perry parceled out the money to the girls but kept most of it for herself. She said there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do to keep her addiction going.

‘Treated like dirt’


Now Perry has a different attitude.

She explains to the girls who walk “the track” hunting for tricks that prostitution is not worth the danger they put themselves in and their lives are priceless.

“It’s fast money, it’s easy money,” said Perry. “But it’s not always easy when the cops are handcuffing you on the street or when you get pistol-whipped or you get beat down or you get in the car and you don’t get paid for what you’ve done and you get treated like dirt.”

Many of the girls Perry comes across have become hardened by prostitution and life on the streets. She said sometimes they pretend everything is OK but they have been “brainwashed” by their pimps.

“Some days it seems like a no-win situation,” Perry said. “But the thing I like about it is getting to know the person behind the face, behind the makeup and behind the dress.”

Perry doesn’t have a specific approach when she confronts the girls on the street. She said sometimes she just tries to befriend them, or offer to buy them a cup of coffee or to pray with them.

“It’s not a basic routine for me,” Perry said. “I allow God to lead me with different people because everyone is an individual.”

A way out


On holidays, including Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day, Perry makes care packages including hygiene products to pass out to prostitutes. Perry said it’s important to let the girls know she is here for them.

“I give them my number and I tell them there’s a way out if they want,” Perry said.

Over the years, Perry has gotten to know many of the girls by their real names, and their street names such as “Candy” or “Sugar.”

Perry posts their names on what she calls a “Most Wanted” list and prays for them. She prays the girls will someday be able to realize their self-worth.

Perry considers herself a success of the Twilight Treasure ministry. She said her life’s work is to continue reaching out to girls selling their bodies on the streets. It’s impossible for her to know how many girls she’s saved from prostitution, but she knows that the lessons she has learned could make the difference in someone else’s life.

“People don’t care what you know until they know you really care,” Perry said. “They have to see that you’re real.”

Elliot Spitzer and America’s Ethical Perversity

by Rabbi Michael Lerner
 The cross-the-political-spectrum attacks on Elliot Spitzer and the intensity of the demands that he resign his office show just how far the  Right-wing sexual moralizing has been able to trump any other kind of ethical reasoning in American society.
 Going to a prostitute is legal in some states and some countries around the world, and is often the very arrangement that saves families from splitting up whose sexual energies have diminished but whose love is intact. It’s not uncommon for men (and now increasingly women as well) who have achieved great power in our society by adopting an outer show of ruthless pursuit of power and influence (even, as in Spitzer’s case, if the power is aimed at pursuing laudable ends) to feel a deep  emptiness and loneliness that is not addressed by friends or spouse, and hence to seek some kind of outside connection no matter how superficial that is not bound by previous rules and roles. Nevertheless, I and many others in the religious and spiritual world oppose that practice when it involves adultery or prostitution, because it depends on the objectification of another human being, so that sex is disconnected in ways that it should not be from a significant encounter with the spirit of God in the other or a deep recognition that is the only real way to overcome existential or situational alienation. 
 Moreover, the trade in women for sexual purposes has frequently led to rape and abuse and the kidnapping of young women who are sold into sexual slavery. All of these outrageous practices are abhorrent and should be challenged. The flaunting of sexuality in the media, and the implicit message that the only real satisfaction comes from having the most physically attractive people as sexual partners, not only generates huge dissatisfaction even as it allows corporate advertise to become predators manipulating our personal sense of inadequacy to sell their products, but also generates desires that feed the sexual trade in women. Given this larger social context, until sexual satisfaction is so broadly available in our society that no one has to pay for it and so deeply tied to love that no one is objectified in the process, this kind of exploitation of women and degradation of sex is likely to continue. All of these practices foster the sexual predators of the contemporary world. 
 So Elliot Spitzer deserves to be critiqued and ought to be doing deep atonement for what he did.  His previous moral arrogance and willingness when he had power to do so to prosecute others for their participation in creating prostitution rings makes him an easy target. We, in turn, might practice the forgiveness that our religious and spiritual traditions preach, particularly those of us who have been willing to honeslty face how flawed we ourselves are, and how at times we ourselves fail to embody in our actual practice with others the values that we publicly espouse. Humility and compassion are also part of the path of a spiritual progressive. 
 But the intensity of the critique of the N.Y. governor, tied with the demand that he resign, shows more about American society’s ethical perversity than about Spitzer. 
 The President of the U.S. and the Vice President, working in concert with several other high ranking officers of our government, lied and distorted to get us involved in a war that has led to the death of over a million Iraqis, the displacement of 3 million more, the death of 4,000 Americans and the wounding of tens of thousands more. After token opposition in Congress, our elected representatives have overwhelmingly passed budgets funding this war, rather than refuse to fund any military projects until the President stopped the war and withdrew the troops.
 Meanwhile, our government has overtly engaged in torture, wiretapping of our phones, and violation of our human rights and the rights of people around the world. Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Charles Schumer votes to confirm as Attonrey General a right-wing judge who refused to repudiate these crimes. 
 The U.S. government has rejected every attempt to implement the Kyoto environmental agreements or to work out new agreements sufficiently strong to reverse environmental destruction that is certain to lead to new levels of flooding particularly in several poor countries around the world. The consequence: tens of millions of deaths. 
 The Clinton Administration pushed, along with corporate support, a set of trade agreements that have devastated the farmers of many developing countries, forcing many off their farms and into city slums where their daughters and sons are often sold into sexual slavery.  The global economic system we have fostered has led to increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, so that over one out of every three people on the planet lives on less than $2 a day, 1.5 billion live on less than one dollar a day, and over 15,000 children die every day from malnutrition-related diseases and inadequate availability of medicine that is hoarded by the rich countries who can afford the prices made to ensure huge profits to the pharmaceutical industry. 
 Health insurance companies and private medical profiteers are doing all they can to ensure that there will be no health care for tens of millions of Americans, unless that is provided in ways that guarantee corporate super-profits and thereby guarantee that the cost of health care paid through taxes will be huge and create anger at all government social welfare and well-being programs, leading to their likely de-funding. 
People in the US have faced severe economic crises on a regional and soon on a national level because corporations move their centers of production to countries in Asia where they can exploit workers with less government or union interference and where they can destroy the environment with less societal restraints. Wild to achieve greater profits, corporations and the rich have managed to support politicians who lower the taxes on the rich, in the process bankrupting the public sector or severely reducing its ability to provide enough funds for quality education, health care, libraries, public transportation, and social welfare. 
 That there is no outcry for these government officials and corporate leaders to resign immediately or be impeached, that there is no moral outrage at the entire system that produces this impact, is America’s ethical perversity. Instead, the only crime against humanity that the media takes seriously and the politicians fear is being exposed for personal sexual immorality. While everyone basks in their own self-righteous demands on Spitzer, we all allow media and elected officials to fundamentally distort our ethical vision and play out our morality on the smallest of possible stages while ignoring the global and personal consequences of our larger ethical failures.
 Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine <> , Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives <> ,  rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls in San Francisco and Berkeley, and author of The Left Hand of God. He welcomes comments at
If you agree with this perspective, call your local media and ask that it be presented alongside the mainstream views. And help us continue to provide alternative analyses by joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives ( and urging your friends to do so as well!   
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‘Pussycat Preacher’ Wins Film Festival Prize

Contact: Heather Veitch, 310-493-9924

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 25 /Christian Newswire/ — The controversial documentary film “The Pussycat Preacher” has won the Audience Favorite Award at the Cinequest Online Film Festival. The film will now make its theatrical world premiere on Saturday March 1, 2008 in San Jose, California at the regular Cinequest Film Festival. The subject of the film, Heather Veitch will be present with filmmaker Bill Day at the premiere.

The Pussycat Preacher is a feature length documentary focused on former stripper turned evangelist Heather Veitch and the formation of her ministry called JC’s Girls Girls Girls. It is a ministry with a mission field aimed at women trapped in the sex industries. Veitch and her ministry became the source of considerable controversy within the Christian community. At issue was her method of leading Christian women from her church into the dark world of strip clubs and porn conventions for outreach.

“It was very ironic how we were accepted by the sex industry but not by many in the Christian Church,” Veitch says from her home in Las Vegas.

The film chronicles the struggle of Heather and her team of girls to get their ministry up and running against strong resistance.

“At first it didn’t look like it would be too difficult,” reports filmmaker Bill Day. “But as soon as their pastor announced the ministry to his congregation, the road suddenly got very bumpy. Congregation members, staff people, and other Pastors raised their concerns. Many felt it was an immoral ministry.”

Day claims the film is fashioned after the life of Jesus Christ. “It is really a story about the triumph of love over hatred,” he says. “Jesus was notorious for reaching out to prostitutes and tax collectors. His love was unconditional. Yet, the first people to attack him were his own. Heather’s story is a modern version of the same theme.”

In the story, Heather receives Christian hate mail, has her life threatened by stalkers, and even has her house broken in to. But she also has supporters. Her pastor Matt Brown, at Sandals Church in Riverside, California remained a supporter throughout the struggle. At one point, Brown was on the verge of losing his church facility, but refused to back down.

“It has a very dramatic conclusion, but I can’t give the end away,” says Heather. “You’ll just have watch the movie to see that.”

For more information please visit,, or


Former prostitute makes it her business to minister to sex workers

Annie Lobert glances across the circular bar of an upscale Strip casino and sees a young woman wearing the sort of attire — flashy, sexy, sparse — young girls wear on Saturday nights in the hours before nightclubs open.

Lobert walks over to the girl and strikes up a conversation. The young woman seems wary at first, and surprised. But 10 minutes later, she and Lobert are talking as though they’ve been BFFs since grade school.

When Lobert returns to her seat, it’s with the girl’s phone number and plans to call her the next day.

While no one who saw the exchange would think anything of it, Lobert had, quickly and correctly, pegged the young woman as a call girl. And that conversation she struck up? Just Lobert practicing her ministry.

Lobert, a striking blonde with a sweet disposition wrapped around a fearless determination, is founder of Hookers for Jesus, a nonprofit organization that ministers to prostitutes, sex workers, porn actors and anybody else who sells his or her body for a living.

Not all that long ago, she was the one sitting across the bar.

Lobert is relentless in serving her flock-that-doesn’t-know-it-yet. She walks the streets of Las Vegas to find and talk to working girls. She’s the fly in the ointment at adult video conventions. She tells her story — graphic, heartbreaking and, ultimately, redemptive — on national Christian radio and TV talk shows. Through her Web site — — she finds, prays with and ministers to prostitutes, pimps and anybody else who wants to leave whatever game they’re playing.

Lobert’s is an unusual ministry, and not just because Hookers for Jesus targets those whom even Christians can be loathe to embrace. Rather, it’s just incongruous that it’s all the product of Lobert’s firsthand experience.

“There’s a purity about her,” says the Rev. Benny Perez, pastor of The Church at South Las Vegas, Lobert’s home church.

When hearing her story, he adds, “it’s just like, ‘Did you really come out of this?’ ”

Lobert was born in Minnesota. She asks that, out of respect for her family, details about her early years remain vague. She spent her teen years in Wisconsin and admits she was a rebellious kid.

“My dad was in the military, and that’s one reason why I rebelled,” Lobert says. “We had a very strict upbringing.”

Lobert grew up in a denomination that she describes as “very strict and legalistic.

“I knew God was watching me, but I always, for some reason, thought he was mad at me. He’s like the guy with the hammer who’s going to smash me,” Lobert says. “When you have that mentality of God, you can’t even understand who God is. You’re afraid to approach him or to pray.”

When she was 18, Lobert moved to Minneapolis with aspirations of a career in the music industry. She worked during the day, club-hopped at night and, at the gym one day, fell hard for a guy.

“I was so in love with him,” Lobert says. “I thought that if we gave everything to a person they’d totally embrace us and they’d love us forever. That was my teaching because of the media. The media and the movies teach you your knight never leaves you.”

And, Lobert says, he was “the man I sold myself over.”

When her boyfriend, who was in the Air Force, was transferred to California, Lobert, searching for a way to raise air fare to visit him, took a friend up on her offer to visit Hawaii. There, during a brief vacation, Lobert learned how to sell her body.

“It was exciting,” Lobert admits. “I thought: ‘Oh my gosh. I’ve hit a gold mine. I’ve figured out how to sell my body. Wow, if I ever get in a pinch, I could do this.’ I woke up with this whole new thought process.”

Nor did Lobert feel any religious qualms about it. “I thought that God knew I was a good person and that he’d understand,” she says. “When you’re tempted that strongly into money and glamour, your mind will (concoct) anything to make you agree with it.”

Besides, Lobert further rationalized, she was only doing it for her boyfriend. “Honestly, when I first started doing this lifestyle, being in it, I thought that all my money was going to a good cause and that I’d retire one day,” she says.

Back home, Lobert quit her office job and signed on with an escort service. At first, “I was lucky,” she says. “Nobody had abused or mistreated me on a call.”

In 1987, when she was almost 20, Lobert moved to Las Vegas, figuring the money would be better here. In 1988, she was arrested in a hotel room setup. One of the arresting officers was former Sheriff Bill Young, then head of the police department’s vice section.

“I knew her when she was really in the depths of it,” Young says. “She’s still a very beautiful woman, but when she first came to Vegas she was one of those working girls who could make untold money. She absolutely stopped traffic. But, unfortunately, like a lot of them, they get hooked up with these pimps who kind of take over their lives.”

Sitting in jail, “I started crying,” Lobert recalls. “It finally hit me that I was arrested for prostitution.”

The shock wasn’t enough to scare her straight, though. Lobert estimates that, during the next few years, she was arrested between 20 and 25 times for assorted offenses, including solicitation.

But as her career as a call girl progressed, her life took a decided downward spiral. Lobert said she was beaten and raped by clients, and once was kidnapped, thrown into a car trunk, driven into the desert and threatened with death. In 1995, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and underwent two years’ worth of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“Trust me, watching your hair fall out while you’re getting to work selling your body is not a pretty sight,” Lobert says. “I was devastated.”

Then came an addiction to the painkillers she took during chemotherapy. And, Lobert says: “I started seeing things in a different light. I started just hating what I was doing.”

Lobert had flirted with God before. She’d repeatedly vow to quit prostitution, “but when I got back out there, push came to shove and I started working again. I told myself the same lie: I’d work to make enough money to get out of it.”

In 1998, she did leave the business. Lobert kicked her addiction and started an automotive repair business with her then-partner. But when the business began to fail, Lobert fell back into using cocaine and painkillers.

“I had two whammies,” she says. “One was, I didn’t make it in the prostitution world. Another whammy was, I didn’t even make it in the corporate world. So what good am I?”

One day, Lobert overdosed on cocaine and had a heart attack. Convinced she was going to die, Lobert called to Jesus. She remembers a feeling of peace coming over her, as though God was so close that his face was inches away from hers.

“I completely — finally — surrendered,” she says.

She read the Bible and watched Christian TV. Lobert says she came to the realization that God wanted her to tell prostitutes, pimps and others in the sex industry of his love for them.

Now, through Hookers for Jesus, Lobert ministers to others who are where she was not very long ago. The name is both cute — the group’s logo features a fish being caught by a hook made out of the letter “H” — and apt: The fish symbol was a means by which early Christians identified themselves to one another and, Lobert notes, Jesus “says we are fishers of souls, fishers of men and women.”

“I don’t care if you’re a prostitute, a pimp, a stripper, a porn star or if you’re just a regular person or a woman who’s been sexually abused, or a man who’s been sexually abused, or anyone who’s been rejected in their life,” Lobert says. “The message is the same across the board, because it’s a message of redemption and love.”

One woman who had been, as she puts it, “in the game” for six years met Lobert last fall through the group’s Web site.

The woman has a 2-year-old child and, she says, “no amount of money I would ever make doing (prostitution) would be worth it to me if my daughter came to me when she got older and said: ‘You did it when you were younger. It must be all right.’ ”

The woman was, at first, “very skeptical” of Lobert and her ministry, figuring Lobert would be “this churchy girl telling me what I was doing was wrong.”

Still, the woman met Lobert at a casino and found that she “doesn’t come across as being a goody two-shoes Christian girl.”

“We prayed right there in the middle of the casino,” the woman recalls, “and I never went back.”

Now, the woman attends church twice a week, reads the Bible, has gotten “a regular job,” and vows that she’ll “never go back.”

“I love Annie,” she says.

On the street, Lobert is fearless and has no hesitation about approaching prostitutes, and even their pimps, to share her message.

“I’ve lectured her in recent years about being careful out there,” says Young. “Pimps don’t particularly care for what she’s doing.”

Walking along the Strip — she and a friend cruise the famed boulevard nearly every weekend looking for escorts and call girls to talk with — Lobert is an eye-catching sight, maybe because of the spangly “Hookers for Jesus” logo on the top she wears, maybe just because she’s the one wearing it. Either way, Lobert has a way of winning over passers-by.

Lobert’s MO is merely to introduce herself and then talk. While her message is avowedly Christian, she doesn’t force-feed religion. In fact, she says, many of those who contact her in person, by phone or through her Web site are simply looking for a way to leave the business.

“Most of the women, and even the pimps, they don’t know how to get out of that lifestyle,” she explains. “There’s no formula to follow.”

Lobert concedes that not all Christians are comfortable with either her own past or her current ministry. “It’s definitely a step of faith I took to even do this ministry, because I know not everyone’s going to agree with me,” she says.

But, Lobert adds, smiling, “every minute I spend talking to a girl over the phone, over the Internet, in person, in church is worth its weight in gold to me.”

Contact reporter John Przybys at or (702) 383-0280.


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Federal relief program does poor job at fighting disease

Another voice / AIDS treatment

Buffalo News Opinion

By Douglas A. Feldman
Updated: 12/18/07 6:38 AM

Thirty billion dollars to treat, prevent and care for HIV/AIDS over the next five-year period: This is double the initial commitment of $15 billion allocated in America’s global fight against AIDS. The White House is boasting 1.1 million people, mostly in Africa, are being treated for AIDS with funds from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Congress is currently discussing the reauthorization of the relief program, which would increase the number of people treated to 2.5 million, prevent at least 12 million new HIV infections and care for more than 12 million others. Who could oppose that?

The problem, however, is that when we look at the program’s track record, it is clear that it is extraordinarily flawed. It took two years before the program used any generic anti-retroviral drugs, and even though 34 generic medications have now finally been approved, 73 percent of all treatment dollars last year were still being spent on American brand-name pharmaceuticals at about four times the price.

Of even greater concern is that the claim of 1.1 million people treated for AIDS is a gross exaggeration. The most recent data show that only 64 percent of those treated actually received direct, site-specific support from the program.

In the area of HIV prevention, Congress in 2003 required that one-third of prevention funds be used for abstinence- only programs. Last year, the Bush administration quietly raised the requirement so that two-thirds of all funds must be used for abstinence-only or marital-fidelity programs. The problem with abstinence-only programs is that they are the only category of HIV prevention programs scientifically proven not to work. These programs falsely assert that condoms are ineffective, and they fail to prepare young people to practice other forms of safer sex when they do become sexually active.

The program has also been systematically shifting some funds away from more experienced AIDS service organizations with good track records. Inexperienced faith-based organizations that often preach religious morality — frequently worsening AIDS-related social stigma against people with AIDS — are now receiving an increasing share of the funds. Today, these faith-based organizations comprise 30 percent of all of the program’s funded organizations.

The program is mired in restrictions. To receive funds, for example, organizations and governments must sign a statement condemning sex work, even in places where sex work is legal and where organizations are working with sex workers to prevent HIV.

Before moving ahead and blindly accepting the $30 billion with the same restrictions, Congress should look at the program more closely. We need to ensure that the funds are used against AIDS, rather than to bolster a political and ideological agenda.

Douglas A. Feldman is a professor of anthropologyat Brockport State College. Hehas been conducting HIV/AIDS researchin the United States and Africa since 1982,and has edited several books on AIDS.


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