“What Letter Comes after B again?”
With so little emphasis placed on the “C” in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), you’d think Bush administration officials had forgotten their ABCs. PEPFAR, a five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight the HIV and AIDS epidemic boasts of using the comprehensive “ABC” model for prevention: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and use Condoms. Although a great strategy in theory, unequal emphasis on parts of this plan has caused PEPFAR’s execution to fail miserably.
Unfortunately, President Bush himself has undermined its success by requiring all HIV prevention programming for youth to be “A” (abstinence-until-marriage) or “B” (if they are married). But since for than 11 million unmarried young people in PEPFAR’s focus countries are sexually active, youth need more than “just say no” education on sex. Instead, global AIDS funding must embrace a realistic, comprehensive approach that includes information about abstinence and condoms, because condoms can help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Who gets the “C” (condoms)? According to the policy, it is limited to “high-risk” individuals, the definition of whom does not include youth; therefore youth account for half of all people with new HIV infections worldwide. Considering the alarming infection rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as a high rate of unwanted pregnancy among youth, I would definitely consider unprotected sex a “high-risk” behavior. Not our President. Under PEPFAR, only sex workers are at high risk.
I urge you to pay attention to the fine print, especially when it affects so many lives. Youth around the world deserve information on their sexual health, and that information should not be limited by the morals of Washington politicians. Our government must pay attention to the science behind sexual and reproduction health. Remember, it’s as easy as “ABC”.
I don’t ever remember that phrase saying, it’s as easy as “A” or as easy as “B”.
Co-written by Deidre Young and Beth Pellettieri. Adapted from “Sample Op-Ed” by Advocates for Youth