Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Defender of abstinence resigns amid allegations of prostitution


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One of the primary defenders of the Bush administration's international abstinence only until marriage HIV prevention program has resigned after his personal cell phone number turned up on the list of a high class escort service.

Randall L. Tobias, 65, was the former head of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and was named to lead the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative in July 2003. He was put in charge of all international assistance programs for the U.S. government in January 2006.

In his government positions, the married man and father of four had defended both the abstinence-only policy and the "be faithful" portion of the ABC program for HIV prevention. The "C" in the ABC program urges people to use condoms.

Tobias also has enforced a policy requiring that contractors and grantees sign a pledge to condemn prostitution. Several organizations involved in HIV prevention say that policy hampers their effectiveness in reaching out to sex workers with prevention activities. They have challenged it in court and the matter is under appeal.

So it should come as no surprise that when he was caught with his pants down, literally, and ABC News called to verify that his phone number was among those on the list of clients of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who has been dubbed by the media as "the D.C. Madam," Tobias quickly resigned. The April 27 resignation cited "personal reasons."

Tobias has claimed that he only received a massage from the women whose services he hired. It is the same defense used by the evangelical Reverend Ted Haggard when he was caught using the services of a male escort.

Federal prosecutors have indicted Palfrey, of Vallejo, California, on charges of racketeering. They claim that her company, Pamela Martin & Associates, engaged in prostitution.

Palfrey disputes that. On her Web site she said the company "functioned as a high-end adult fantasy firm which offered legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior."

In turning over 46 pounds of telephone records to ABC, Palfrey apparently is attempting to smoke out clients who will testify on her behalf that they only engaged in legal activities with her "associates."

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