General Articles

Well-Connected Abstinence Group Gets Federal Funding

Last fall, the Bush Administration’s Global AIDS program gave a grant to the abstinence-only-until-marriage group Children’s AIDS Fund to promote abstinence in Africa despite the fact that an expert review committee deemed the group "not suitable for funding."1 The grant was not publicly announced and first received media attention in mid-February as a result of a letter Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) sent to Ambassador Randall Tobias, head of the US Global AIDS program.

In his letter, Waxman explained, that he has been having difficulty in his efforts to obtain information about the grants awarded under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). He suggested that the Administration may have been resisting his inquiries because "a major PEPFAR grant for abstinence education was awarded to an organization with close political ties to the Bush administration even though a technical panel had rated the grant proposal as ‘not suitable for funding’."2

Waxman explained that the "Children’s AIDS Fund originally submitted its grant to USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] as part of an international competition for the funding of abstinence activities."3 These grants were submitted to a technical review panel. In October 2004, USAID released the list of grants to be given to 11 HIV-prevention organizations. This list did not include the Children’s AIDS Fund. An internal document obtained by Waxman, showed that although the panel ruled that the group was "not suitable" and had "outstanding technical issues," the organization was funded anyway.

In fact, the review committee was overruled by Andrew Natsios, the head of USAID, and on November 1, the global AIDS office approved a grant of an undisclosed amount for the Children’s AIDS Fund. Natsios argued that the group would provide access to the First Lady of Uganda, a vocal advocate of abstinence-only programs and critic of condoms. Interestingly, a formal announcement was never made.

Many suggest that the organization received funding due to its political connections. Children’s AIDS Fund is an abstinence-only-until-marriage organization co-founded by Anita Smith, a prominent abstinence-only-until-marriage supporter who has close ties with the Bush administration. She serves as the co-chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). In addition, she is married to Shepherd Smith, the president of the Institute for Youth Development, another abstinence-only-until-marriage organization that receives federal money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health. Interestingly, Shepard Smith also serves on the Advisory Committee to the Director of the CDC.

In his letter Waxman writes, "this action raises serious concerns about the integrity of the PEPFAR grant review process."4

For more information, please see Representative Waxman’s letter at


  1. David Brown, "Group Awarded AIDS Grant Despite Negative Appraisal," Washington Post, 16 February 2005, A17.
  2. Letter from Henry A. Waxman to Ambassador Randall Tobias, 15 February 2005, accessed 18 February,
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid