Billions Squandered on Abstinence in Africa

In addition to its catastrophically mishandled Global War on Terror, and the possibly even more worrisome campaign to erode our civil liberties, this administration should also be remembered for its inability to recognize the failure of government-mandated morality, and the human costs this ignorance brings about.

Numerous studies have shown the dismal failure of abstinence-only programs to curb teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases here in the U.S. While abstinence-plus programs have fared slightly better, it is plain to anybody whose judgment is not clouded by unrealistic faith-based expectations that stopping people from having sex is about as effective as blocking a flood with a couple of sandbags placed end-to-end.

But we still dedicate precious resources fishing for the handful of kids who will vow to keep their pants on, while underfunding the methods that are proven to make a substantial difference. If these misplaced priorities were affecting Americans only, it would be bad enough, but it doesn't end here. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the cradle of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, billions of U.S. tax dollars are being routed into programs that not only don't work, they can actually make the situation worse:

The record of the first PEPFAR program was decidedly mixed, Human Rights Watch said. The United States has demonstrated global leadership in scaling up access to HIV treatment, but it undermined HIV prevention through the adoption of ideologically driven approaches that emphasized abstinence until marriage and hindered programs targeting sex workers by requiring organizations to sign a so-called “prostitution pledge” opposing prostitution.

Sign the pledge or you don't get any money. Become the enemy of those who are at the highest risk of contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS. Brilliant.

“The US could be a global leader in the fight against AIDS,” said Joe Amon, HIV/AIDS Program director at Human Rights Watch. “But if Congress allows ideological views about sexuality to trump evidence-based programs and human rights protections, US efforts against HIV/AIDS in Africa will continue to fall short.”

Congressionally mandated evaluations of PEPFAR programs by the Institute of Medicine and the US Government Accountability Office have criticized the rigid abstinence-until-marriage funding requirement. They have recommended that the funding restriction be eliminated because it undermines prevention efforts and hampers the capacity to develop and implement comprehensive prevention programs that are well-integrated with each other and with HIV testing, care, and treatment programs.

In Uganda, another PEPFAR target country in Africa, Human Rights Watch documented the ways in which the US abstinence-only policy resulted in censored or distorted information about condoms, and denied young people information about any method of HIV prevention other than sexual abstinence until marriage .

So...abstinence has failed here in America, and it's hindering the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. How does our President respond to these facts?

"We don't want people guessing on the continent of Africa whether the generosity of the American people will continue," Bush said in Tanzania, the second stop of his African trip.

But it's okay to leave them guessing about the best ways to avoid contracting HIV.

"One of the main reasons I want to make sure the American people know that the program is successful is because I want this program to continue to be funded," Bush said.

Then stop wasting money on useless and conflicting programs in your quest to promote decency and the sanctity of marriage in the midst of a pandemic.

Sorry. I couldn't make this picture any bigger. I'm running short on resources.

Comments

Crossposted at DKos

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LET'S GET IT RIGHT!! ABSTINENCE ONLY APPROACH FAILS

Let's get it right. . .Twenty years of abstinence-only programs has proven to be unrealistic as well as irresponsible. Depriving adolescents of valid information puts our entire human race at risk. Let's do the right thing and provide our youth and everyone else with the knowledge that we all need to survive. Man can not live without knowledge.