Bad Romance: Why is the Obama Administration Still Funding Abstinence-Only Education?

By Mary Beth Hastings, vice president, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

Dearest Obama administration, we need to talk. I know you say you want to change, Obama administration, but please show me. No more sweet talk that you don’t really mean. You say you’re not like that administration that hurt so many in the past, but can I believe you?

Here we are together in romantic Vienna at the International AIDS Conference, and though everything seems new and special, I’m afraid things haven’t really changed.

Yes, Obama administration, you sound really good when you say things about “provid[ing]100 percent of youth in PEPFAR prevention programs with comprehensive and correct knowledge of the ways to protect themselves” and about promoting gender equity – like you did in your Five-Year Global AIDS Strategy at the end of last year. And I really want to believe you. But then you turn around and continue those old ways, saying you’ll fund organizations that do only abstinence and faithfulness-only programming, like you did in Nigeria this past May.

Oh sure, you’ll say that it’s just part of a larger program, that some people will get access to female and male condoms (“high-risk” groups, like sex workers and men who have sex with men), but do you really expect me to believe that “comprehensive and correct knowledge” for young people means giving them only information about abstaining from sex? Or that encouraging couples only to be faithful, and not about male and female condom use, promotes gender equity? I know I’ve said this before, but what about those many women whose partners aren’t faithful?

Don’t you see that giving some people access to and information about condoms and keeping that information and access from other people is NOT comprehensive prevention? It’s wrong, it violates their right to health, and I’m sorry but after all so many years of these AB-only programs, I won’t stand for it.

No one should leave a PEPFAR-funded prevention program without full information about and access to condoms. I don’t like ultimatums, but I need that commitment from you and I need it now. HIV/AIDS is far too serious to continue with this bad romance.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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