Crisis in Africa: How Abstinence

“This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature,” President Bush said in his latest State of the Union address. How?

The president called for $15 billion during the next five years for HIV/AIDS programs abroad. Congress is happy to spend the money (as always) but has drawn up a bad bill that funnels all this money into the failed programs of the past. There is new evidence that abstinence education and good basic health care could stop the epidemic in its tracks — but Congress isn't paying attention.

The need for effective AIDS relief in Africa is tragically self-evident. Of the estimated 42 million people worldwide who are currently HIV positive, nearly 30 million reside in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in 11 adults is infected with the disease. According to conservative demographic projections, there will be 300 million fewer Africans in 2050 because of the scourge of AIDS.

Three and a half million people on the continent were newly infected with the deadly disease in 2002. Millions — millions — die each year. Yet transmission rates in many of African countries are so star-tlingly high that the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to spread.

“Unsafe sex” is continually blamed for Africa's AIDS pandemic. But a new meta-analyses, just out in the International Journal of STD and AIDS, suggests the role of sexual transmission of HIV has been greatly inflated. “Existing data can no longer be reconciled with the received wisdom about the exceptional role of sex in the African AIDS epidemic,” the authors conclude.

The real culprit is bad medical practice. The study concludes that unsafe injections and other medical exposures to contaminated blood may account for two-thirds or more of the new cases of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

This is not what the U.S. Agency for International Development lobbyists who oppose abstinence want to hear. Nor is it music to the ears of the abortion-promoting ideologues of the U.N. Global Fund.

Their programs “integrate” HIV/AIDS relief programs with “sexual and reproductive health” programs. Such “integrated” HIV/sexual and reproductive health programs provide an opportunity for medical transmission. They bring HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients together in the same ramshackle clinics and subject both to invasive medical procedures.

Three and a half million people on the continent were newly infected with the deadly disease in 2002. Millions — millions — die each year.

The new evidence suggests millions of married and monogamous couples on the African continent have contracted HIV/AIDS from poor medical procedures.

This problem has been made even worse by foreign aid programs that emphasize contraception, sterilization and abortion (“reproductive health”) to the near exclusion of primary health care. Clinics are well supplied with DepoProvera, IUDs and condoms but lack health care essentials such as rubber gloves, needles and disinfectant.

Medical equipment, such as syringes and manual vacuum aspirators, cannot be properly disinfected before it is reused. The local blood supply might be tainted, providing yet another vector for HIV transmission.

The over-reliance on condoms that characterizes these programs has its own drawbacks. The “safe sex” message creates a false sense of security that could encourage promiscuous behavior. And condoms do not provide fail-safe protection against HIV, as several recent studies have demonstrated.

There is only one method that provides absolute, 100% protection against getting AIDS. Abstinence should be promoted without hesitation or equivocation in U.S.-funded programs.

Stand-alone abstinence programs, implemented by faith-based groups that are unencumbered by the population control/family planning mentality, would be tremendously effective.

Funding faith-based abstinence programs would also break up the HIV/sexual-and-reproductive-health cartel. A half dozen population-control groups, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation, have mightily profited from AIDS spending for two decades. Millions of innocents have contracted HIV during this same time period, many infected in the same integrated HIV/sexual-and-reproductive-health clinics that were supposed to save them.

Enough is enough. Let us stop this man-made plague by encouraging the African people in the direction of abstinence. Let's shatter the dangerous paradigm that confuses HIV/AIDS programs with “family planning” — and sends people to their deaths.

And let us help rebuild primary health care programs in Africa, a continent suffering from three decades of neglect at the hands of the population controllers, some of whom, it must be said, must be greatly pleased at what they have achieved.

Steven Mosher is the president of

Population Research Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human-rights abuses in population-control programs.