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Between Abstinence and Global HIV/AIDS | The Nation

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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

Between Abstinence and Global HIV/AIDS

Perhaps Nicholas Kristof put it best: Condoms don't cause sex any more than umbrellas cause rain. Yet this week as Congress gears up to reauthorize the President's program to fight global HIV/AIDS, U.S. funding continues to enshrine an emphasis on pre-marital abstinence thoroughly disconnected from facts on the ground.

In the words of one African reporter who questioned Bush last week during his trip to Africa, the U.S. requirement that one-third of AIDS funding promote such abstinence is a poor use of funds because frankly, "multiple sexual relationships or partner relationships is the reality" in many African societies. In fact, as an LA Times editorial put it on Thursday, often for African girls, marriage can mean a "death sentence," as they can't dictate their husbands' extramarital behavior or condom use.

While the White House's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS are certainly laudable, they also ignore the voluminous science (as well as reports from the Institute of Medicine and General Accounting Office) that indicates the White House's strong focus on abstinence hobbles more effective tools--like condom promotion--which combat HIV.

Last week in Ghana, however, Bush shrugged off such concerns. "I can report, at least to our citizens, that the program has been unbelievably effective," he said. (A curious qualification--at least to our citizens?)

Note: And if you were hoping McCain would be any better, check out this exchange here.

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