August 14, 2006
Not as simple as ABC
Three approaches to AIDs:
“In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, new data shows that Africa’s ABC [abstinence, be faithful, condoms] model of AIDS prevention has led to dramatic declines in HIV infect-
ion rates in young men and women. Pregnant mothers with HIV now know that their unborn children don’t have to inherit the disease.”
A quarter of the world’s Aids treatment centres are run by the Roman Catholic Church, whose ban on condoms as a form of contraception has until now ruled out their use to block the transmission of HIV. (To the fury of the World Health Organisation, some senior Vatican officials are spreading the message that condoms are useless because the virus passes through the rubber, a claim dismissed as nonsense by most experts.)
The “ABC” programme—abstinence, be faithful and use a condom—had saved many lives, Mr Gates told the conference of more than 20,000 delegates. But, departing from his government’s line, he added that for many at the highest risk for infection, ABC had its limits.
“Abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls, who have no choice but to marry at an early age. Being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man.”
“We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women. This is true whether the woman is a faithful married mother of small children or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum. No matter where she lives or what she does, a woman should never need her partner’s permission to save her own life.”
About time Gates went on the political offensive.
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