I Write Letters

Dear Senator Obama:

When you go to visit David Letterman, or anyone else for that matter, please stop saying things like:
This is something that George Bush has done well is work on AIDS issues in Africa, he has made a serious commitment to it and I give him credit for it.
Because it's not true. Or, at best, it's only half the story.

George Bush's AIDS initiative in Africa has helped save lives via treatment, but, because of "the White House's AIDS prevention mantra—which prescribes abstinence and marital fidelity, with condoms only for 'high risk' groups like prostitutes and truck drivers," it has put millions of more lives at risk. In Uganda, where a comprehensive AIDS prevention program successfully lowered infection rates in the 1990s, the rates are now rising again—because the Bush administration has effectively "refashioned Uganda's anti-HIV campaign to fit the distorted notions of American conservatives."
Under the current policy, one third of the money allocated to HIV prevention goes to abstinence-only campaigns, often run by evangelical allies of the administration.

But this figure is also deceptive, because the prevention budget includes things like fighting mother-to-child transmission. In fact, a full two-thirds of the money for the prevention of the sexual spread of HIV goes to abstinence. What's left is targeted to groups considered high-risk. HIV-activists have spent the last two decades trying to show that condoms aren't just for prostitutes and the promiscuous; Bush has undone much of their work.

…Stephen Lewis, who until last year was the United Nations Secretary General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa [on] the balance between the harmful and the helpful aspects of Bush's AIDS initiative: "It really is difficult to quantify," he said. "The only thing one can categorically say is that the overemphasis on abstinence probably resulted in an unnecessary number of additional infections." That this policy is celebrated as Bush's greatest moral achievement shouldn't be understood as praise.
I hope I don't need to tell you, Senator, that it is women's lives who are disproportionately put at risk by programs that don't encourage the use of condoms, and that a focus on abstinence and marital fidelity ignores realities of women's lives in Africa, where rape is epidemic and "women make up the majority of new infections and marriage is a primary risk factor" because of male infidelity.
"We are now seeing a shift in recent years to abstinence only," [Beatrice Were, the founder of Uganda's National Community of Women Living with HIV and AIDS] said. "We are expected to abstain when we are young girls and to be faithful when we are married to men who rape us, who are not necessarily faithful to us, who batter us."
George Bush is the reason for that foolish expectation. He doesn't deserve your unqualified praise—and I really hope you don't offer it again.


P.S. This is the sort of thing that makes feminists itchy about your commitment to women's issues, just so's ya know.

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