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April 14, 2005

Abstinence, AIDS and Bush: Deadly Ignorance

Genevieve LaBahn

      Bush doesn't like to deal with reality—whether it be the reality of the whereabouts of those WMD in Iraq (reality: there are none), or the reality on abstinence-only sex education (reality: teenagers are going to have sex even if you say no). No, reality, on the other hand, seems to be the exact opposite of where Bush finds himself.

      Reports show that Bush's "abstinence-only" sex education in public schools is misleading and teaching, according to the Washington Post, that "half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus" and that the HIV virus can be transmitted through sweat and tears. In other words, these abstinence-only programs are based on completely incorrect science. In Bush's reality, preaching abstinence magically makes science irrelevant. This mentality smacks of ignorance, and unfortunately, can be quite deadly when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention, especially in Africa.

      Last week, it was announced by hrw.org that Uganda's successful ABC ("Abstinence, Be Faithful, use Condoms") HIV/AIDS program was in serious jeopardy due to the Bush administration pushing the "Abstinence" part while dropping out, and spreading lies about, the "Condom" part of the program. Lies, like how condoms contain pores that allow HIV to enter. The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is a health crisis of the highest magnitude and must be combated in the most effective way available. Study after study maintains that teaching a combination of safe-sex practices, i.e, contraceptive use like condoms, combined with behavior skills, i.e, monogamy and abstinence, is the most effective.

      Bush's actions towards curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS is not unprecedented; during Reagan's administration the groundwork was laid to clearly paint the emerging AIDS epidemic in America as a purely moral issue (that is, blame the gays) that should be ignored by a conservative government—in addition to most public health issues that involve sex, like preventing teen pregnancy and STIs, for example. And we're surprised when the US, of all the developed democracies in the world, ranks dead last with regards to the amount of teens that get pregnant, teen abortion rates, and STI infection rates? With the way Bush and his administration handle health issues in our own country, it should come as no shock. And continuing this ideology of ignorance for combating HIV/AIDS in Africa is a ghastly mistake, that will only result in more deaths and infections.

      The bottom line: treating HIV/AIDS prevention as if it were a moral issue instead of a health issue is ignorant, dangerous and will lead to only increased rates of transmission as a result. Common sense must be applied in health issues, and certainly for such a grave issue such as preventing the further spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

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