Abstinence and faithfulness more effective


A deadly virus is sweeping through nations, killing millions, and if people don’t want to catch it, they must consider changing their sexual behavior, a Harvard researcher told Baptist Press.

The public health establishment, meanwhile, has failed to recognize the obvious in assessing AIDS prevention methods because it fears endorsing a perceived religious conservatism related to abstinence and faithfulness, Edward C. Green, a research scientist at Harvard University and author of “Rethinking AIDS Prevention,” said. “It’s so insane that [abstinence and faithfulness] has not been part of the advice from the beginning,” Green said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development shelved Green’s 2003 report on AIDS prevention methods in Africa and hired a condom advocate to conduct another study instead. Green had concluded that the “ABC” method–Abstinence, Being faithful in marriage and Condoms only for high-risk populations–was most effective in the dramatic reduction of AIDS cases in Uganda.

Despite the lack of funding, Green said there is a trend in Africa toward more abstinence and fidelity. The Harvard researcher said he found that if you ask people in those countries why they’re choosing those methods, it’s typically because some religious group told them they have to do it or they’ll die. And such blatant truth-telling is stemming the tide of the AIDS epidemic in some African nations.

Green first focused on the facts in Uganda in 1993 and was stunned to see infection rates were falling because of something other than condoms. “Nobody believed that the rates were coming down and nobody believed that it had anything to do with abstinence and faithfulness,” he said. “I said to USAID in a report that’s published in my book, ‘Ah! Look, they’re doing something different, and it’s working. My recommendation: Put more resources into abstinence and faithfulness.'” That was 12 years ago. “Faith-based organizations have been working with orphans and working with the sick and the dying and the bereaved and so forth, taking care of spiritual needs, taking care of economic needs,” Green said. “But they haven’t been funded to work in AIDS prevention. That’s crazy because they have an extremely important role to play. So when you think that millions of lives have probably been lost because we’ve refused to look at the lessons from Uganda and some of the other countries of the world that are in my book, maybe in the future historians may look back and say that was a human rights abuse to not recognize or publish [that evidence],” Green said. “We talk about USAID, but no one published it. The United Nations, World Health Organization, medical journals have been rejecting articles that contradict the consensus-based paradigm.” For many years, Green noted, the tobacco industry avoided acknowledging a connection between smoking and lung cancer. But if an organization were given $15 billion to address lung cancer globally–just as President Bush allotted $15 billion for AIDS prevention in Third World countries–those charged with the task would likely start with changing smoking behavior, Green said. Programs have not been funded by the United States that promote such changes in sexual behavior to save lives, Green said, although the Ugandan government has taken such an approach and seen tremendous results. “I think one of the things that has kept the public health establishment from recognizing the obvious is, ‘This sounds like religious conservatism, so we can’t endorse it,'” he told BP.


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