Quick-fix attitude impairs the fight for AIDS prevention

In light of World AIDS Day, which was observed on Friday, December 1, it is appropriate for us to reflect upon the effects of AIDS in society and how this deadly virus can be avoided.

First, it is absolutely imperative that people have an awareness of the gravity of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Its lethal capabilities have caught the attention of the global community since the disease has become more and more prevalent over the past few decades.

Although we often hear about the rate of AIDS in Africa, the disease is present everywhere.

An estimated 1 million people in the United States are living with AIDS. There may even be some right here at BGSU who have the disease.

And inevitably, when the topic of this global tragedy comes up, there is always debate on ways of prevention.

According to the White House Web site, President Bush, in his remarks on World AIDS Day, called abstinence “the only sure way to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS.”

Bush has been particularly supportive of the ABC approach, which stresses abstinence and marital fidelity over condoms as the primary way to prevent the spread of the epidemic.

Although some institutions discourage this approach, promoting abstinence has been effective.

An article by lifenews.com cited research on the ABC approach in the African nation of Uganda. The research was done by Carey Roberts, an investigative writer who wrote an article in The Washington Times in 2004 on the topic of abstinence in preventing the spread of AIDS in Uganda.

In his article, he noted Uganda’s success in using the ABC approach, which has been in effect for 15 years.

He said, “The results were impressive: the HIV infection rate in Uganda dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent. In 1991, 21 percent of pregnant women had the deadly HIV virus. Ten years later, that figure had dropped to 6 percent.”

The United States Agency on International Development (USAID) confirms these results. And Uganda is not the only country in Africa which is taking the ABC approach seriously; Kenya, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic are also utilizing this promising method.

And why have they been effective?

Well, I suspect it’s because some international institutions which work to prevent AIDS are beginning to see that condoms do not get to the root of the problem. Promoting condoms is like trying to put a band-aid over a huge gaping wound.

It’s impersonal and does not show true, genuine concern for those who have been affected by the AIDS epidemic.

To give a person a condom actually endorses more sex.

It’s degrading when you think about it. It assumes that a person is just going to “do it anyway” as if they have no capacity to control themselves.

Sure, it’s easy to just hand out condoms, but it solves nothing. And when condoms are everywhere, people will have more sex; thus, when the condoms don’t work, more people will be infected with HIV as a result. It’s a no-win situation.

The abstinence and marital fidelity approach is much more effective because it deals with the whole person, not just their bodies.

Some people think that abstinence is a negative thing because it says, “no.” But, really, abstinence says, “yes,” to healthier relationships and a healthier future marriage.

The problem is that we sometimes look at abstinence too legalistically and don’t see the good that it does.

A 1991 study conducted by Joan R. Kahn from the University of Maryland and Kathryn A. London from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that those who are not sexually active before marriage have a much lower divorce rate .

Again in 1991, University of Maryland sociologists Jay D. Teachman, Jeffrey Thomas and Kathleen Pasch conducted a study called “Legal Status and the Stability of Coresidential Unions,” also published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which said that couples who cohabitate before marriage are 63 to 71 percent more likely to divorce.

This research shows that abstinence promotes stronger marital fidelity, the second approach to the ABC method to prevent AIDS.

When abstinence is presented effectively, one can see how powerful it really is. Not only does it work in preventing the spread of AIDS, it also greatly avoids the hurt that divorce brings.

Instead of the “quick-fix” attitude that condoms endorse, it’s imperative that international agencies as well as our government continue to promote abstinence, a 100 percent effective way of ensuring the prevention of AIDS.

But, in doing so, these institutions must promote abstinence in a way that shows why it’s a, “yes,” to a healthy marriage rather than a, “no,” to sex.

There is a lot of beauty in waiting to have sex until marriage. Love is patient.

If those who are teaching the ABC approach can really convey that message, then the AIDS rate will continue to go down like it has in Uganda.

Send comments to Lauren at [email protected]