PEPFAR Funds Comprehensive Sexuality Education Overseas, Experts Warn
While pro-life advocates warn that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) subsidizes non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that perform and advocate for abortion overseas, PEPFAR’s controversial allocations are not confined to NGOs, nor to the abortion issue. “Everyone is pointing to abortion, but we should also be looking at the comprehensive sexuality education,” Keystone Policy founder and CEO Bethany Kozma told The Washington Stand.
Kozma said PEPFAR funds comprehensive sexuality education through the “DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe)” Initiative. DREAMS is a public private partnership between PEPFAR’s implementing agencies and “private sector partners: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and ViiV Healthcare.” According to the State Department in 2019, “Over the last four years, PEPFAR has invested over $800 million through DREAMS.”
The DREAMS Initiative “provides a comprehensive, multi-sectoral package of core interventions” for girls and young women, including through “school-based HIV and GBV [‘gender-based violence,’ e.g. rape] prevention efforts.”
Kozma, who served as deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Trump administration, referenced a “Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Life Skills and Life Orientation” curriculum for children aged 10-19 in the Republic of South Africa. An accompanying 81-page document (copyright 2020) containing “Education Official Training” and “Scripted Lesson Plans … for school-based sexuality and HIV prevention education” is publicly available on USAID’s website. The document states that it was developed “with the financial support” of USAID.
According to the USAID-funded Scripted Lesson Plans, South African 10-year-olds are introduced to sexuality-related concepts, including the transmission of HIV. Twelve-year-olds are taught about the “care, treatment, and support” for HIV and AIDS. Thirteen and 14-year-olds are taught to make decisions about sex and know their limits. Fifteen-year-olds are taught how to use condoms. Lessons on gender exploration are sprinkled throughout.
“These foreign priorities are not valued by poorer countries in need of material aid. They need clean water, safe food, electricity — basic needs,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Education Studies, told The Washington Stand. “When the U.S. offers aid and insists on their accepting a sexual agenda as well, this is colonialism of a different kind.”
“When the U.S. is so divided, when we do not ourselves agree that these kinds of programs should be exported overseas let alone allowed in U.S. schools, making these a condition of aid for countries is truly depraved,” continued Kilgannon. Kozma agreed. “Americans don’t like inappropriate sex ed being taught to their kids, but the State Department is exporting it around the world, under PEPFAR,” she remarked.
The USAID-funded educator training references a U.S.-produced curriculum titled, “Gender Matters: A Gender-Transformative Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Curriculum.” That curriculum is published by a D.C.-based NGO called EngenderHealth, which was founded in 1937 as the Sterilization League of New Jersey, and still had the word “sterilization” in its name as recently as 1984. Its most recent mission statement says it is “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality.”
“Comprehensive sexuality education programs are extremely dangerous because they are built around anti human assumptions,” explained Kilgannon. “‘Poor people shouldn’t breed’ is one of those assumptions. ‘Safe sex can and should happen outside marriage’ is another. ‘Abortion and contraception are necessary for women’s equality’ is another. There are many more.”
During official travel to South Africa, Kozma attempted to get a first-hand look at the U.S.-funded curriculum, but she found herself stonewalled by education officials, she said. “This is really nothing new. There were these problems during the Trump administration,” she added. Kozma was appalled that PEPFAR administrators would supply condoms to protect preteen girls from contracting HIV, but were relatively unmoved that girls “were effectively being raped.”
PEPFAR has been linked to an apparently separate comprehensive sexuality curriculum published by South Africa-based health system Anova Health Institute. In a May 1 letter to Congress, 30 pro-life leaders highlighted Anova because the group “decried laws enacted in U.S. states that designate bathroom use based on biological sex while also promoting abortions to teens as young as 14.” Anova has received $238 million through PEPFAR.
The letter linked to a 268-page curriculum Anova designed to promote an ideologically left-wing view of sex to teenagers, which is no longer available at that web address. The curriculum titled, “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Life-skills,” exposes semi-formal groups of youth aged 14-19 to a comprehensive sexuality education model, covering abortion, masturbation, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The exercises include such activities as pairing young people off to practice “saying yes or no to sex.” According to the internet’s Wayback Machine, the 2012 document’s .pdf link was last archived on May 11, 2023, 10 days after it was featured in the letter to Congress.
Although comprehensive sexuality education is a different issue from abortion, Kozma argued that it indirectly promotes abortion. “If you promote having sex, which is what comprehensive sexuality education does, then you’ll have girls who need abortion,” she said. The DREAMS Initiative also supplies prostitutes aged 20-24 with “pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),” which is “a medicine taken to prevent getting HIV,” per the CDC.
“Progressives are quick to criticize New World explorers who they claim were cruel and disease spreaders,” said Kilgannon. “But they are completely on board with spreading deadly sexual ideologies to countries that have health concerns and economic needs of their own.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.