Monday, February 04, 2008

Preventing HIV Around the World -- It Takes More Than Just Say No

The AP reported this weekend that there will be an upcoming battle over the U.S. global AIDS program.

The good news is that both the President and the Democratic Congress want to increase monies for the program. One of the bright lights of common ground in the past few years is a growing recognition by conservatives (both political and religious) that we have a moral obligation to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic around the world.

But that commitment has been hamstrung by the insistance that US monies be reserved for abstinence-only-until-marriage efforts -- in the case of the PEPFAR program, one third of the prevention monies must be used to promote abstinence-until-marriage regardless of the country or the culture. And US policies forbid any monies from being used with prevention programs aimed at sex workers.

This Congress has not been brave in opposing abstinence-only programs for American teenagers, despite the lack of evidence that they have an impact. It's hard for me to imagine they'll be any braver in considering the international program.

But, we can hope and pray that they will understand that the best public health response and the best moral response is to provide prevention dollars that are known to be effective and that allow countries to develop their own programs consistent with their own needs and culture.

And that it is never moral to say, "just say no or die."


Bill Baar said...

Have you ever counseled the partner of someone HIV+?

Having been a member of a church in the 80's and watching members die some nasty deaths, I'm not so sure as you seem to be on this topic.

Steve Caldwell said...


I would check out the Advocates for Youth web site and their fact sheet on the differences between European and US sexuality education:

Adolescent Sexual Health in Europe and the U.S.—Why the Difference?

Both Holland and Germany have lower HIV infection rates and lower STD rates when compared to the US.

The differences between the US and these Western European nations come from their approach to sexuality education.

Our European neighbors are using the same approach that we use in Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations -- comprehensive sexuality education -- as part of their national public health policies.