Tuesday, June 12, 2007

AIDS and Abstinence

Earlier this month, Senators Diane Feinstein and Olympia Snowe introduced a budget amendment which would end the limitations imposed by the Bush Administration on American funds used in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. The U.S. government's current rules stipulate that 33% of all funds for HIV/AIDS prevention be used for abstinence-before-marriage programs which the Government Accountability Office has shown to be a highly flawed approach, especially in developing countries. These limitations have curtailed local efforts to stem the tide of mother-to-child transmission, as well as efforts to protect blood supplies. It is also acknowledged that in some societies in the developing world, women have little or no ability to refuse sexual relations with men who hold the economic and cultural power in their communities. Abstinence-only programs do nothing to address these concerns and simply block needed funds from reaching the people who need them most. Thus, the Feinstien-Snowe measure will allow for "maximum flexibility" for those on the front lines to decide how these desperately needed funds will be spent. I strongly support the movement to jettison abstinence-only requirements which simply politicize the issue while imposing a moral paternalism which does little to protect anyone in the face of a growing pandemic.
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