The world's largest AIDS conference begins next Sunday
night. The 17th International AIDS Conference is being held in
Mexico City from August 3rd through August 8th.
the conference, the anti-poverty agency ActionAid is releasing a new
book entitled: Politics of Prevention – A Global Crisis in AIDS and Education.
It says tens of millions of young people are at risk due to a lack of
comprehensive sex education. David Archer, co-author of the book, spoke from
London to VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about what he means by
the politics of prevention.
field of HIV and AIDS is one where it is now become very clear that although we
cannot cure HIV and AIDS, it can be prevented very easily with basic
information (and) basic education. But unfortunately, large numbers of children
around the world aren't able to access that education and that is as a result
of political elements in a number of ways," he says.
outlines the areas where he says politics have hurt the fight against HIV/AIDS.
the politics around the financing of HIV and AIDS. And secondly, politics
around…the way in which macro economic support through advice as given by the
International Monetary Fund…undermines the capacity of governments to invest in
education. And thirdly, the politics of the United Nations, which are unable to
confront some of the fundamental truths around HIV and AIDS, which require
people to talk about sensitive issues like sex…needle exchange and gay men,
which can actually save lives," he says.
why he believes these problems exist more than 25 years into the HIV/AIDS
epidemic, he says, "I think in a way a lot of attention is being focused in
recent years on treatment and ensuring access to treatment and that's clearly
been very important. But in the last 10 years, I think this area of prevention
has become increasingly political and increasingly sensitive. And particularly
I think we see the way that (President) George Bush's initiative PEPFAR
(President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief)…has actually politicized and
particularly introduced this idea that children around the world should only be
taught to abstain, an abstinence-only model of education."
says that model has been proven a failure both in the United States and
elsewhere. Nevertheless, he says the abstinence-only model has been "exported
to Africa," displacing more comprehensive programs.
officials deny the program ever over-emphasized abstinence, saying, however,
they wanted to ensure that abstinence and being faithful received as much
attention as condom use.
reauthorized version of PEPFAR, approved recently, eliminates the requirement
that a certain amount of funds be set aside for abstinence-only programs,
although some such programs will continue in small numbers.
Bush says he's ready to sign the expanded version of PEPFAR, which provides $48
billion dollars for HIV/AIDS over five years. The original version allocated
$15 billion. It also stipulates that more than half of the aid goes towards
treatment and care and 10 percent for orphans and vulnerable children.
says, "I would agree that we are making progress in the right direction. I
think that officially the money is no longer conditioned on abstinence-only
programs and this is clearly a major step forward. Unfortunately, that takes
time to filter down into practice. And after several years of funding being
dependent on organizations using only abstinence approaches, you have many
organizations, who in the desperate need for funding have closed down these
other strands of their work. Now it takes time to rebuild those programs in a
more comprehensive way."
He adds, "Just actually going to
school and staying in school itself can help to reduce the risk of infection
from HIV and AIDS because the school offers a safe environment. If that school
is also able to offer comprehensive sex education you are considerably safer.
The shock truth of course is that over 70 million children around the world
don't even go to primary school. So, the first challenge is to get all children
into school and then to ensure that those schools are providing life saving