Bush Administration’s Focus on Abstinence, Fidelity ‘Condemns’ African Women To Die of HIV/AIDS, Opinion Piece Says
Although the Bush administration's focus on sexual abstinence and marital fidelity is "well-meaning," it will cause "a lot of unnecessary deaths on the ground in Africa," where many women contract HIV from their husbands, columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in a New York Times opinion piece. "The stark reality is that what kills young women here is often not promiscuity, but marriage," Kristof writes, adding, "Indeed, just about the deadliest thing a woman in Southern Africa can do is get married." As a result, there is a need for condom promotion -- particularly in countries where there is a "disdain for condoms" -- to reduce the spread of HIV, according to Kristof. Although condoms have had a "crucial role" in "relatively successful" HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns in some countries, the Bush administration requires that U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS programs for youth focus on abstinence, Kristof writes. In addition, according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity -- a nongovernmental organization focusing on the effects of U.S. policy on women around the world -- the United States is "backing away from effective programs that involve condoms" in several countries, Kristof says. "Perhaps the White House thinks it has the moral high ground when it preaches, completely irrelevantly, to women ... about the need to be faithful," Kristof says, concluding, "But it strikes me as hypocritical to pontificate about virtue while pursuing an ideological squeamishness about condoms that risks condemning ... millions [of women] to die" of AIDS-related illnesses (Kristof, New York Times, 3/30).
Microbicides, Vaccine Are 'Best Hope,' Letter to Editor Says
Microbicides, along with an HIV/AIDS vaccine, remain the "best hope for bringing the AIDS epidemic under control," Zeda Rosenberg, chief executive of the International Partnership for Microbicides, writes in a Times letter to the editor in response to a Kristof's column (Rosenberg, New York Times, 3/31). Microbicides include a range of products -- such as gels, films, sponges and other products -- that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/9). Although Kristof's piece "underscores the need to promote condom use, abstinence and behavior change" to curb the spread of HIV, as long as "wives, girlfriends and sex workers lack the power to refuse unprotected sex or negotiate condom use, there is a need for protection that women can initiate," Rosenberg writes. A vaginal microbicide could be applied "well before sex and, if necessary, without the partner's knowledge," she says, concluding, "Backed by adequate financing and political will, an effective microbicide could become available in five to 10 years, saving millions of lives around the globe" (New York Times, 3/31).