Study Confirms That Abstinence Education Has Utterly Failed At Preventing AIDS In Africa

Published: March 4, 2015

Think Progress
Sam P.K. Collins
Original Article:

The more than $1.3 billion the United States government has spent to encourage abstinence and fidelity among Africans in the last 10 years has done little to change sexual behavior and curb the spread of HIV, a recent study determined.

Nathan Lo, a second-year student at Stanford School of Medicine, came to this conclusion after a year-long analysis of international survey data collected between 1998 and the present that included information about the age people had sex for the first time, rates of teenage pregnancy, and the number of sexual partners. Nearly two dozen African countries were featured, the majority of which received funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR.

While the study challenged a conservative notion that sexual education centered on abstinence could quell the spread of HIV on the Motherland, former and current affiliates of PEPFAR remain reluctant to acknowledge Lo’s findings, citing a need to further examine his research before making a comment.

This recent news, however, represents a shift in thinking among health experts about how to best combat the spread of HIV/AIDS that has been years in the making.

“Many of us who are active in the fight against HIV in Africa, where AIDS has hit the hardest and where most PEPFAR funds have been spent, watched with disappointment in the early days of PEPFAR as the Bush administration redefined the “ABC” approach as a preference for abstinence-until-marriage programming,” Scott Evertz, formerly of the Center for American Progress, wrote in his 2010 report critiquing PEPFAR’s focus on abstinence-centered sexual education.

“NGOs doing good work lost their funding as a result of the prostitution pledge; and as foreign governments, implementing agencies, and USAID program officers exhibited a stunning disregard for the needs of men who have sex with men and other HIV-vulnerable groups,” Evertz wrote.

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