Combating the Politicization of HIV Prevention

In 2006, many of the United State's major organizations leading the fight against HIV/AIDS and their international partners came together to create the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention. Originally started in the lead-up to the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006, the Caucus was designed to highlight and defend the importance of evidence and science in determining what works best to prevent HIV infection.

Now, more than 40 members of the Caucus are preparing in earnest for the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in early August 2008. Our work is clearly cut out for us. The current politicization of HIV prevention by the US Administration and its favored groups here at home and around the globe, remain the largest single threat to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS. This is not the first time the US has supported ideology over evidence. Past International AIDS Conferences have revealed the US administration's reluctance to embrace sound science over moral rhetoric. And while advocates continue to press for comprehensive HIV prevention grounded in evidence, the US government ceases to withhold its support of questionable programming.

For example, as we await revised and higher estimates of new infections each year here at home, country successes such as Uganda's success in curbing HIV prevalence appears to be unraveling and the largest donor in the world to HIV/AIDS, the United States government, continues its staunch support for abstinence and marriage promotion over a more comprehensive approach that would include condom and contraception education and distribution. Other effective interventions with evidence behind them, such as harm reduction programs and targeted outreach work with high-risk groups, are also set aside in pursuit of politically safe, feel-good nonsense that only hampers global efforts to turn the tide against HIV. Why does this story continue to repeat itself?

As we gather in Mexico City with colleagues from around the world, we know how the optics of political ideology and moral rhetoric can cast a shadow over the substance of science. Our efforts provide a clear lens in a time when sanity and science are desperately needed to return our country to its evidence-based prevention paradigm.

This year, we ask you to help us change the storyline from one of ideology to evidence-based prevention. We invite you to join list of newsletters recipients by sending your e-mail to sonia.kandthil(AT)yahoo(DOT)com. At the Mexico City conference in August, as we begin to turn the tide on HIV prevention, you'll be getting the same timely coverage from the Caucus that we delivered in Toronto in 2006. If your organization wants to become part of the Caucus, we welcome your participation as well by sending an e-mail to this same address.

In 2006, we provided a united front in the fight to end AIDS and we will do so again in 2008. We will continue to be the voice of sound science where ideology abounds.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily represent those of The Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention.

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