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This blog used to be about politics. Not so much anymore as I have worked through my fascination with that subject. It now seems appropriate that with a new president and the end of the Bush nightmare that I move on to new subjects that are more in line with my current interests. I may still occasionally express an opinion about political matters but for the most part I will be commenting on music, photography and personal observations. Thank you for reading.

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Stretching the Truth Again
dustbury.com: Stretching the truth

Ironically, in a post titled "Stretching the Truth" our friendly neighborhood okie blogger Dustbury presents us with two paragraphs:

Every reputable sexuality education organization in the U.S., as well as prominent health organizations including the American Medical Association, have denounced abstinence-only sexuality education. And a 1997 consensus statement from the National Institutes of Health concluded that legislation discouraging condom use on the grounds that condoms are ineffective "places policy in direct conflict with science because it ignores overwhelming evidence ... Abstinence-only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs and given the fact that we face an international emergency in the AIDS epidemic" (NIH, 1997).

and this paragraph:

The African nation of Uganda, until recently suffering one of the worst cases of post-colonial political corruption and social misery, has surpassed all expectations in its AIDS program based on abstinence and social cohesion. Uganda has decreased its rate of AIDS by as much as 75% in some demographics, an unprecedented success in the story of African AIDS combat.

The first is from the Planned Parenthood website, which is quoting the NIH. The second is from LifeSiteNews.com:

LifeSite's writers and founders have come to understand that respect for life and family are endangered by an international conflict. That conflict is between radically opposed views of the worth and dignity of every human life and of family life and community. It has been caused by secularists attempting to eliminate Christian morality and natural law principles which are seen as the primary obstacles to implementing their new world order.

That's fine and all, but is their information correct? Was abstinence promotion an intergral part of the success story in Uganda? Yes. But even if the title of article from which the Lifesite post was based "Uganda's success against HIV due to abstinence, behaviour change and community, not condoms" seems to sugegct that Uganda took an abstinence-only appraoch, this is simply not the case, as presented in the article.

An analysis of population-based surveys of HIV risk conducted in 1989 and 1995 showed that there had been an important reduction in some key HIV risk behaviours between these two dates, in particular an increased age of sexual debut, a reduction in numbers of sexual partners, and increased use of condoms with both regular and non-regular partners.

So the real story is that Uganda was successful in their approach because they focused on behavioral modification as well as condoms.

From the Uganda AIDS commision website:

To reduce the risk of HIV

* Talk about safer sex with your partner – before you get into bed. (And don’t leave it up to your partner to raise the topic!).
* Be tested if you think you have been exposed to HIV. A test is the only way to know for sure.
* Always carry a condom with you, especially if you will be drinking or doing drugs.

Like everyone else, straight men need to take responsibility for having safer sex. It’s the only way to protect yourself and your partners.

Which sounds like your typical sex education to me: information about how the virus is transmitted as well as information on ways to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

So simply flooding a country with condoms won't be effective in stopping the spread of AIDS. But neither will denying people an effective tool to prevent the spread of the disease. So in the end everything still stands as the NIH has stated: "abstinence-only programs cannot be justified in the face of effective programs". The only difference is that some defenders of abstinence-only programs have seized upon a poorly worded headline to promote the AIDS program in Uganda as an abstinence-only success story.

The facts don't support that claim. Uganda is being effective NOT because it is limiting or banning the use of condoms, but because the government of that country has taken the issue of AIDS awareness seriously and has made it a high priority to educate its people about the disease. How this can be used to bolster the social conservative agenda of discouraging condom use and limiting sex education is beyond me.

The problem apparently lies in our rigidity in staking out our political partisanship (PDF) and refusing to listen to facts even when they are presented to you.

Part of the whole problem is precisely the "ever increasing polarization between left and right". Some in the religious right have in fact attacked broader contraception and progressive social programs in the same breath as they have attacked the condom distribution (or "condom airlift") solution to AIDS. This has put liberals so much on the defensive that they will simply not listen to logical public health arguments on the need to address risky sexual behavior in the pandemic driven by risky sexual behavior. Partisans on the left and the right are currently fighting over how the newly promised billions for AIDS prevention is to be spent. The fight seems to have once again been reduced to condoms versus "abstinence" forgetting that the lesson from Uganda is that balanced, integrated approach that provides a range of behavioral options is what works best.

Explain that.

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