World Aids Day

Today, Dec. 1st, is World Aids Day. It’s a time of celebration…wait a minute, that’s the Holidays, sorry. It’s a day when the world is supposed to think about AIDS and what can be done to prevent its rapid spread. According to the President, we should all just abstain. Until marriage, that is. That would be Man+Woman marriage which is of course, blessed by God. None of that gay stuff. Not here, not no way. According to Avert, an international AIDS charity, the ABC approach works best. The ABC approach is as follows:

  • Abstain
  • Be faithful
  • Condomise

Most people involved with AIDS research and charities agree that the ABC approach originated in Botswana in the late 1990s. The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) outlines ABC as:

  • Abstinence for youth, including the delay of sexual debut and abstinence until marriage.
  • Being tested for HIV and being faithful in marriage and monogamous relationships.
  • Correct and consistent use of condoms for those who practice high-risk behaviors.

Finally, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) defines the ABC concept as:

  • Abstinence or delaying first sex.
  • Being safer by being faithful to one partner or by reducing the number of sexual partners.
  • Correct and consistent use of condoms for sexually active young people, couples in which one partner is HIV-positive, sex workers and their clients, and anyone engaging in sexual activity with partners who may have been at risk of HIV exposure.

Now I know, what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “but Bulldog, they’re all basically the same.” They all look the same, but the problem comes in when you look deeper into where the research dollars are going for promoting AIDS awareness. Again, according to Avert, these three concepts need to balanced in order to more fully prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Under PEPFAR however, the focus is on A and B, and not so much on C. Granted, abstaining and being faithful to your spouse or partner will definitely result in fewer infections of AIDS, but neither one is a guarantee. Without pushing the need for proper condom usage to the world’s youth population, AIDS will continue to spread. In the United States alone, the average age at which a young person loses their virginity is 16½. That’s an average. That takes into account the National Institute of Health’s Virginity Pledges as well. While the pledges appear to help some, they don’t do enough to help curb sexual activity at the teen and sometimes pre-teen level. As a father myself, I can attest to giving my 15 yr old son “The Talk” several times now. I cannot stress enough to him the importance of using protection if and when he embarks on his first sexual experience.

The C in the ABC concept is crucial to helping curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and many other STDs. Under-representation by the United States Government of this concept will inevitably lead to increasing HIV infection rates, albeit not at the levels they would if neither A nor B were implemented. Finally, I give you Avert’s take on the whole ABC debate (note my emphasis):

Is this a problem?
If, in countries where there is a high prevalence of HIV infection resulting from sexual transmission, young people delay having sex for the first time, then this risk avoidance will indeed result in them avoiding infection whilst they are adopting this approach.

However, abstinence until marriage does not always ensure safety, because marriage in itself provides no protection from infection. Many people are unsure of the HIV status of their partners, and those who are faithful cannot be certain that their partner is maintaining the same commitment.

Abstinence is not a realistic option for the millions of women and girls who are in abusive relationships, or those who have been taught always to obey men. People who do not abstain should do everything possible to reduce risk, including using condoms.

“condoms, when distributed with educational materials as part of a comprehensive prevention package, have been shown to significantly lower sexual risk and activity, both among those already sexually active and those who are not.” – UNAIDS, October 2004.

Although PEPFAR-funded prevention programs using the ABC approach as defined by them will result in fewer infections than might otherwise have occurred, the result is still likely to be more infections than would occur if a more comprehensive program were adopted.

So what it all boils down to is this, regardless of your religious beliefs YOU NEED TO INFORM YOUR KIDS OF ALL THREE CONCEPTS OF THE ABC APPROACH EQUALLY! We also need to pressure our legislators and the President to do more to balance each of these concepts. This is the only way that we will ever be able to truly combat HIV/AIDS and slow its spread around the world. Please keep this in mind, not just today, but everyday.

Thanks go to the following for information used in this post: – The ABCs of HIV prevention

PEPFAR – 5 Year Strategy (.pdf file)

UNAIDS – Homepage

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