How Bush’s abstinence push is killing African women

Today Michelle Goldberg has a great piece about the Bush administration’s lethal decision to push abstinence as a solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa. She quotes Beatrice Were, the founder of Uganda’s National Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS:

Like many in attendance, Were contracted HIV from her husband, a common occurrence in a region where women make up the majority of new infections and marriage is a primary risk factor. For those like her, the White House’s AIDS prevention mantra — which prescribes abstinence and marital fidelity, with condoms only for “high risk” groups like prostitutes and truck drivers — is a sick joke.
“We are now seeing a shift in recent years to abstinence only,” she said. “We are expected to abstain when we are young girls and to be faithful when we are married to men who rape us, who are not necessarily faithful to us, who batter us.” The women in the audience, several waiting to share their own stories of marital rape, applauded.

Goldberg goes on to debunk the notion, heralded by the likes of Bono, that the Bush administration has drastically increased AIDS funding. Nope– they’ve just managed to not cut HIV/AIDS programs. In other words, they’ve ponied up the bare minimum. She also points out that, while defenders of the abstinence programs say that only 1/3 of prevention funding goes to “just say no” efforts, the reality is quite different:

But this figure is also deceptive, because the prevention budget includes things like fighting mother-to-child transmission. In fact, a full two-thirds of the money for the prevention of the sexual spread of HIV goes to abstinence. What’s left is targeted to groups considered high-risk. HIV-activists have spent the last two decades trying to show that condoms aren’t just for prostitutes and the promiscuous; Bush has undone much of their work.

This argument just might be starting to get through to Laura Bush. Her husband, not so much.

Join the Conversation