Press Releases

Washington, DC – The Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes a provision to provide greater flexibility for U.S. funding of critical international HIV/AIDS prevention programs, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) today announced.

Currently, a federal mandate requires that one-third of all U.S. prevention funds for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are designated for “abstinence-until-marriage” programs. Specifically, the language would eliminate this “abstinence-until-marriage” requirement for Fiscal Year 2008. This would provide affected nations the maximum flexibility they need to develop multi-pronged HIV prevention programs.

“Today, Congress expressed its support for a comprehensive, common sense approach to HIV prevention.  By suspending the requirement that 33 percent of HIV prevention funds go to abstinence until marriage programs, we put science above politics.  We gave HIV/AIDS workers on the ground the flexibility they need to respond to local needs and design the most effective HIV prevention program,” Senator Feinstein said. 

 Senator Snowe said, “We have learned that a physician must have an arsenal of drugs to treat HIV infection.  The same strategy is crucial in preventing HIV infection, and every country must use the combination of strategies which will be most effective in reducing new HIV infections. Today, the Congress is recognizing that fact, and assuring that every dollar of prevention funding can be effective in saving lives.”


A GAO report release in 2006 revealed that abstinence-only programs have serious drawbacks, including:

  • The 33 percent abstinence spending requirement is squeezing out available funding for other key HIV prevention programs, such as mother-to-child transmission and maintaining a health blood supply.
  • The spending requirement limited or reduced funding for programs directed to high-risk groups, such as sexually active youth; and
  • The majority of country teams on the ground reported that meeting the spending requirement ‘challenges their ability to develop interventions that are responsive to local epidemiology and social norms.’

Earlier this year, a congressionally mandated review by the Institute of Medicine on the first three years of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief also found significant problems with the abstinence earmark.  It concluded:

  • There is no evidence to support a 33 percent abstinence only earmark
  • The 33 percent earmark does not allow country teams on the ground the flexibility they need to respond to local needs.

“The GAO and the Institute of Medicine have both issued reports clearly showing how the one-third abstinence until marriage earmark has inhibited the ability of local communities to develop a multi-pronged HIV prevention program that works best for them,” Senator Feinstein said.  “By passing this language, we can set aside politics and get back to the goal we all share: stopping the spread of this deadly disease.”