HIV/AIDS Prevention: Do We Really Care Anymore?

I remember the anxiety and sometime hysteria about AIDS in the ’80s.  The initial identification of AIDS as a “gay disease” was soon countered with the information that you could also  get it through heterosexual sex, as well as from tainted needles and blood transfusions. Everyone became paranoid about getting the disease. Disinformation was everywhere: you couldn’t get it if you were a woman, or straight; you could get it from sweat, or a toilet seat.

The Reagan Administration was slow to respond to the crisis. In fact, the Surgeon General at the time, Everett C. Koop, was forbidden to bring it to the public’s attention. He finally did anyway and dissemination of information about how to prevent it followed. Other than avoidance of all sexual contact, the only way to prevent the transmission of AIDS was to use a condom. Koop, who was a committed Christian, saw no problem with saying so.

And then came abstinence-only sex education, which, as you should know, not only teaches abstinence as the only absolutely sure way to prevent pregnancy and STDs (a fact which can’t be argued with), but also refuses to disseminate any information about birth control methods…unless it is misleading. (Such as the “fact” that condoms fail 31% of the time to prevent HIV/AIDS infection.) That’s because abstinence-only sex education relies on scaring kids out of having sex. If nothing works to prevent pregnancy or STDs then it is assumed that kids will avoid sex altogether. It’s inconceivable to these “educators” that kids might go ahead and have unprotected sex, because after all “nothing works anyway.”

What abstinence-only sex education does is erase any frank talk about sexual issues. The message that sex outside of marriage is bad has even affected those who are presumably old enough to make their own decisions about sex. Young women especially are afraid to carry condoms or ask their partners to use them because they think it makes them look “fast.” If sex just “happens,” they can convince themselves that they didn’t mean for it to, therefore they’re still “good girls.”

The upshot is that HIV transmission has, after falling dramatically since the ’80s, begun to creep up again (for instance, a 15% increase between 2004 and 2007), and other STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are also on the rise. Even though HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was, it is still no picnic to live with, is very expensive to treat, and can still be fatal.

As part of the new health care reform, the federal government has committed to spending $50 million annually for the next five years on abstinence-only sex education. I say this is at best ill-advised, and at worst, fraudulent. Abstinence-only education shouldn’t even be called “education;” it is nothing more than indoctrination. But apparently our government thinks it’s a good idea to tell our children nothing substantive about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS and other STDs (not to mention unwanted pregnancy) continue to plague our society. But, hey, that’s okay. At least people aren’t doing it on purpose.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports;  an article in the June 2010 issue of The American Prospect magazine (you have to be a subscriber to read the whole article online).

Tuesday Tidbits

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

Modern-day Lysistrata? Kenyan women urged to withhold sex for a week to protest political infighting: CNN, BBC

Abortion doctor’s killer, Scott Roeder, receives life sentence including 50 years without parole: Yahoo News Also, possible effects of Roeder’s sentence: Salon Broadsheet

Portrait of Cambodian feminist Mu Sochua: New York Times

Critique of Daily Beast’s “Women in the World” summit that was held March 12-14 in New York City: AltMuslimah

Archdiocese of Baltimore sues city over crisis pregnancy center “truth-in-advertising” law: Feminist News

The Health Care Bill and women’s health: wins, losses and challenges: RH Reality Check

For more “tidbits,” follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Abortion Doctor’s Killer’s Trial

Notice I didn’t write “alleged” killer in the title. That’s because Scott Roeder has confessed in court and in fact is eager to defend his actions. “Those children were in immediate danger if someone did not stop George Tiller,” Roeder told jurors. That a man can be proud that he killed another man is beyond me, no matter what the provocation.

AP Photo

Fortunately, the judge has thrown out the possible verdict of voluntary manslaughter which would have required the defense to show that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified. The judge also noted that abortion is legal in Kansas. Judge Wilbert also refused to allow a second-degree murder defense, which does not involve premeditation, because the evidence — and Roeder’s own testimony — clearly showed Roeder planned the shooting. Instead, Roeder is being charged with premeditated, first degree murder.

Roeder testified that he considered several different ways of stopping Dr. George Tiller from performing abortions, but finally decided that walking into his church and shooting him in the head was the simplest and most effective. He also testified that he had gone to the church on three other occasions, but that Dr. Tiller wasn’t present then. I guess he finally got “lucky” on May 31st, 2009.

At least one person who was watching the trial protested that Roeder wasn’t being given a fair one. “The very thing (the judge) is attempting to suppress, vigilantism … he is actually promoting it by not allowing Scott to have a fair trial,” Andrew Beacham said. Excuse me?

Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said that the trial shows that Roeder believes that the killing was justifiable homicide and that a guilty verdict might open the door  to a federal investigation and prosecution of any others who might be involved in similar acts. One can only hope. It’s about time that such a precedent is set.

Source: Associated Press story

Post Script: The jury returned a verdict of guilty in just 37 minutes!