HIV Prevention Methods Must Consider Social, Economic, Cultural Factors, Opinion Piece Says
The debate over whether to promote the use of condoms or abstinence-only approaches in HIV prevention often has been "hijacked by political, religious or cultural agendas in turn fueled by mutual distrust and prejudices," Ann Smith, an HIV corporate strategist at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, writes in an opinion piece published in the Catholic newspaper The Tablet. Although the "ABC" prevention method -- which stands for Abstinence, Be faithful and use Condoms -- has "emerged" as a "middle-ground approach" between abstinence-only education methods and those that promote condom usage, all three approaches "often assume simplistic solutions for an idealized world in which all individuals are free to make empowered choices," Smith says. Therefore, CAFOD attempts to "take into account the complex social, cultural and economic factors that influence behaviors and condition choices" as well as avoid "erroneous assumptions" concerning the early onset of sexual activity and definitions of promiscuity, Smith says. These assumptions "ignore the fact that, for many in the developing world, sex is often the only commodity people have," Smith says, adding that there also are "immense social and cultural pressures on men and women to conform to accepted stereotypes." Therefore, "simplistic" approaches are "doomed to fail" as any successful prevention strategy must address impact, risk and vulnerability -- the three "layers" of the pandemic, according to Smith. This three-layered approach "reconciles solid science and good community development practices with established and evolving moral theology and Catholic social teaching," Smith concludes (Smith, The Tablet, 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.