International Roundup: Abstinence Only Failures Continue While Real Solutions Underfunded

Melinda Gates (yes, that Gates) writes in Newsweek about the big wrench in entrenched thinking about abstinence-only education: increasingly, women in the developing world are at greater risk contracting HIV within marriage than from any other source. The best solution? In her mind, microbicides. Behavior change would be great, but in the meantime, microbicides would save the lives of millions. Author Peter Gill takes out an Op-Ed in the New Scientist to take on PEPFAR, specifically, its over-emphasis on abstinence-only education and its destructive moralizing in its anti-prostitution and anti-drug use mandates for partners. And he reports a striking statistic: after a promise of 7 million prevented infections to this point, the Administration can only claim 42,000 to date, in part for legitimate difficulties in reporting. Still, the difference is striking. Pop singer Natalie Imbruglia gave an interview with CTV (Canada) about her work as spokesperson for UNFPA’s Campaign to End Fistula, bringing awareness to the fight against obstetric fistula in the developing world. She’s part of a widening awareness and effort to fight fistula, and news from the Daily Champion (Nigeria) echoes this: attendees to a recent conference are strongly urging the Lagos government to take a more pro-active role in strengthening its maternal health care capacity. Nigeria suffers from a high number of maternal mortality: a full 10% of the world’s maternal deaths occur in that country. Awareness of the flaws in ab-only education is rising along with awareness of the various reproductive health problems facing the developing world. Today, more news of how ab-only policies are failing makes the massive amounts of Bush Administration money committed to them look even more irresponsible. That is money wasted on pursuing an ideological goal entirely disconnected from reality, and it is money that could be much better used.

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