“People shouldn’t die because they have sex”

Europe rejects Bush's abstinence-only strategy, declaring that condoms are the most effective weapon in battling AIDS.

Topics:

Europe, led by the U.K., Wednesday night signaled a major split with the United States over curbing the AIDS pandemic in a statement that tacitly urged African governments not to heed the abstinence-focused agenda of the Bush administration.

The statement, released for World AIDS Day Thursday, emphasizes the fundamental importance of condoms, sex education and access to reproductive health services. “We are profoundly concerned about the resurgence of partial or incomplete messages on HIV prevention which are not grounded in evidence and have limited effectiveness,” it says.

While the United States is not named, there is widespread anxiety over the effect of its pro-abstinence agenda in countries such as Uganda, where statements by Janet Museveni, the president’s wife, and alleged problems with supply have led to a serious shortage of condoms.

The U.S. has pledged $15 billion over five years to fight the disease, most of which is channeled through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR grants come with conditions, however — two-thirds of the money has to go to pro-abstinence programs, and it is not available to any organizations with clinics that offer abortion services or even counseling. The U.S. is also opposed to the provision of needles and syringes to drug users on the grounds that it could be construed as encouraging their habit.

But the statement from 22 European Union member states, released at a meeting under the U.K. presidency in London Wednesday, calls on developing world governments to use every prevention tool, from condoms to clean needles to sexual health clinics, in a bid to slow down the spread of HIV. UNAIDS’ latest figures show 40 million people are now infected, and the rate is rising as fast as ever.

“We, the European Union, firmly believe that, to be successful, HIV prevention must utilize all approaches known to be effective, not implementing one or a few selective actions in isolation,” the statement says.



The international development secretary, Hilary Benn, told the Guardian that the evidence had shown what worked, from tackling stigma to supplying condoms and clean needles. “It is very important that those messages are heard loud and clear by everybody,” he said.

Asked whether the U.K. disagreed with the U.S. emphasis on abstinence, he said: “Abstinence works if people can abstain, but I don’t think people should die because they have sex. We need to make sure people have all the means [of prevention] at their disposal — condoms and clean needles. It includes education and access to sexual and reproductive health services. We are very clear about that.”

In August the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, accused the United States of “doing damage to Africa” by cutting funds for condoms in Uganda while promoting abstinence. “There is no doubt the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by” U.S. policies, said Lewis. “To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa.”

Only 35 million condoms were distributed in Uganda between October 2004, when the government said there was a problem with the quality of the stock, and August of this year, compared with 120 million in previous years.

Uganda has historically been cited as one of the HIV/AIDS success stories, and experts generally agree it was partly the availability of condoms that brought the infection rate down. But Museveni has said condom distribution pushes young people into sex and recently equated condom use with theft and murder in an interview with the BBC World Service. The shift in government thinking is being linked within Uganda to PEPFAR.

AIDS activists in the U.K. are pleased by the E.U. stance. “Activists have been warning for years that the U.S. prevention policy is reckless and could cost lives,” said Fiona Pettit of the U.K. Consortium on AIDS and International Development. “The relentless promotion of abstinence only is already having an impact in countries like Uganda. Abstinence only is an unrealistic policy in many communities and a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work.”

“In reality, people have sex … much as conservative evangelists in the U.S. might prefer that they didn’t,” said Andrew George, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman on international development.

This article has been provided by the Guardian through a special arrangement with Salon. ) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005. Visit the Guardian’s Web site at http://www.guardian.co.uk.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>