Barack Obama May Reverse Successful Abstinence-Based Anti-AIDS Policy

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Barack Obama May Reverse Successful Abstinence-Based Anti-AIDS Policy

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 10
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — A health advisor for Barack Obama says the incoming president will overturn a successful anti-AIDS policy President Bush has employed in Africa that has been based on abstinence education. The policy has significantly reduced AIDS rates and local leaders of nations such as Uganda have applauded it.

President Bush’s $15 billion AIDS program focuses on teaching abstinence and fidelity in marriage and nearly 25 percent of the funding for groups involved goes to groups that promote abstinence.

However, abstinence education is anathema to the goals of abortion activists like Obama and his supporters such as Planned Parenthood.

Susan Wood, the co-chair of Obama’s women’s health advisory committee, tells Bloomberg News that he will likely revise the AIDS program to axe the abstinence funding and promotion in favor of promoting and funding contraception.

"We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning services and strengthening public health," she said.

She said Obama "is committed to looking at all this and changing the policies so that family-planning services — both in the U.S. and the developing world — reflect what works, what helps prevent unintended pregnancy, reduce maternal and infant mortality, prevent the spread of disease."

But Bush’s abstinence-based policy has already done this.

The focus on abstinence has paid dividends where it has been used extensively, such as in Uganda, where the rates of AIDS have gone down by half during the last decade.

Washington-area investigative writer Carey Roberts wrote in a Washington Times article in late 2004 that Uganda has been using abstinence to combat AIDS for 15 years.

"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," Roberts wrote in the Times article.

In fact, only 6.2% of Ugandans in the 15-49 age group are now HIV-positive, compared with more than 15% in the early 1990s.

Professor Francis Omaswa, the director of Uganda’s health ministry, said abstinence was the reason for the decline.

"[Condoms] are not the main reason for the drop in our HIV rates," Omaswa explained to the London Sunday Herald. "Our most important achievement has been to change sexual behavior. There is more responsible sex – full stop."

In July, a United Nations study made it clear that the abstinence education message is making an impact in the African HIV/AIDS rates. The study shows people are engaging in casual sex less often, waiting longer to start having sex, and infection rates are dropping.

The report says that, in Zimbabwe, there has been a drop in the infection rate among pregnant women from 26% in 2002 to 18% in 2006 and that abstinence is playing a role in encouraging people to have less casual sex.

In nations like Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and others, younger people are reportedly waiting longer to begin having sex. In Cameroon, the UN study says the percentage of children under 15 having sex has dropped from 35% to 14%.

Fewer people are dying — a decline of 200,000 from 2006-2007 — and new infections dropped by 300,000 last year.

Rev. Sam Lawrence Ruteikara of the Anglican Church of Uganda, who has received funds from the U.S. government, says the abstinence message makes more sense to promote to younger teens than using condoms.

"Why give an alternative and have them take a risk," he previously told the Associated Press.

"This person doesn’t have a sexual partner, so why should I report too much, saying that in case you get a sexual partner, please use a condom. I am saying, please don’t get a sexual partner — don’t get involved because it is risky," he explained.

Ultimately, Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington, told Bloomberg that Obama will be ignoring these successes if he overturns the Bush policy.

"If the president-elect wants to be science-based in foreign sex-education policies, it would be wisest to continue this way because it’s shown to be effective,” she said. "It would be more than unfortunate if that policy was changed.”

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