President Bush’s Emphasis on Abstinence Puts Nation at Risk for Increase in HIV Cases, Opinion Piece Says
By stressing abstinence-only education as "the only certain way to avoid contracting HIV," President Bush is "wish[ing] away AIDS with ridiculous visions of yesteryear" and possibly placing young people at a greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson writes in a Globe opinion piece. Bush only mentions condoms as effective HIV prevention when discussing the ABC method -- which stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, and use Condoms -- according to Jackson. Bush's "1950s vision of a sexless world is no laughing matter," Jackson says, adding, "It is a deadly one." Although condoms can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 87%, new CDC rules direct AIDS prevention programs to "contain medically accurate information regarding the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of condoms," Jackson says. In addition, a CDC fact sheet on condoms and STDs discusses the various ways condoms can fail but does not state until the second page that "[l]atex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective" at preventing HIV infection, Jackson writes. "On the other hand, Bush seems hardly concerned about the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of abstinence programs," Jackson says. A study by Peter Bearman of Columbia University and Hannah Bruckner of Yale University found that teenagers who made virginity pledges delayed the onset of sexual activity by an average of a year and a half and claimed to have fewer sexual partners, according to Jackson. However, pledgers, especially males, were less likely than nonpledgers to use contraception when they did have sex and contracted STDs at nearly the same rate as nonpledgers, according to the study, Jackson says. Bush is failing to ask the proper questions for the 21st century and instead continues to say abstinence "works every time," Jackson says, concluding, "History will show this to be tragically wrong" (Jackson, Boston Globe, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.