HIV Prevention Efforts, Including Those Aimed at Addressing Multiple Sex Partners, Offer Ultimate Hope for Curbing Pandemic, Opinion Piece Says
Although HIV/AIDS treatment and care programs should be expanded worldwide, it is "only by preventing new infections" that the world can "ultimately hope to turn back this devastating disease," Daniel Halperin, senior research scientist at the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard University's School of Public Health, writes in a Washington Post opinion piece in response to a recent Post opinion piece by Richard Holbrooke, president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Holbrooke was "correct to emphasize the importance of HIV testing, especially for providing the main gateway into treatment," Halperin writes, adding, "There is, however, little evidence that knowing one's HIV status fundamentally alters behavior." According to Halperin, although Holbrooke also "listed a number of other key elements of a viable prevention strategy" -- including education, counseling, no-cost condoms, empowerment of women, increased male circumcision and abstinence -- he "neglected to mention the central role that multiple sexual partnerships play in infection rates."
"Broad interventions are needed to address" the factor of multiple sex partners, Halperin writes. He adds that although approaches such as testing, condom use and abstinence are "important," no "magic bullet exists" to prevent HIV, Halperin writes. According to Halperin, "rigorous evidence" suggests that there needs to be a "vigorous expansion" of behavior-change programs in Africa to encourage partner reduction and increased access to safe male circumcision on the continent. It also would be helpful to expand HIV testing programs, "if not primarily for prevention purposes, then at least to help facilitate the care and treatment programs that are also vital to mitigating" the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Halperin concludes (Halperin, Washington Post, 10/22).