Dec 022007
Authors: Sean Reed

Dems take on AIDS plan abstinence provision

Sean Reed

Abstinence just isn’t as popular as it used to be.

Hillary Clinton joined other Democratic front-runners by announcing that, under her administration, the requirement that one-third of all funding go to abstinence programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the current plan to fight AIDS worldwide, be removed.

Instead, she proposed an extension of global AIDS funding to $50 billion over a five year period and a new program that would “be tailored to the needs of communities, without requirements that limit the ability to provide accurate information and relevant comprehensive services to as many individuals as possible,” according to a press release from her Web site.

According to CNN, the Obama and Edwards’ campaigns, while not explicitly rejecting abstinence programs, have both expressed misgivings about the value of abstinence programs.

Obama, in his AIDS plan released in October, expressed a desire, when PEPFAR expires, to “rewrite much of the bill to allow best practices — not ideology — to drive funding for HIV/AIDS programs.”

John Edwards, in his plan, likened the funding requirement for abstinence programs, to “fighting with one arm tied behind our back,” and said that abstinence education, “has been shown not to work.”

Finally, there are people that get it.

As a nation that generally rejects sexual promiscuity and wants people to wait until marriage — even though, as statistics show, few do anymore — it is understandable that the U.S. government would include abstinence as a requirement in a bill relating to a sexual disease. However, practices that can save lives should not be shelved in the name of ideology when there’s a global epidemic on our hands.

It is true that abstinence is the only 100 percent, surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STDs. However, it is also true that, even in America, where the pressure is on many children to wait until they are married, abstinence education has not been successful in preventing sexual activity.

According to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, 47 percent of high school students admitted to being sexually active in 2005. A slightly higher percentage, 55 percent, admitted to being sexually active if practices other than intercourse were included. An alarming 14 percent of those admitted to having more than four sexual partners in their lives.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy think tank, in 2005, nine out of 10 men and women aged 22-24 have been sexually active. At this age, men average at nearly four partners and women at three.

At the same time, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average age of marriage is 26 for men, 27 for women, indicating “many young people have had sex before they are married.”

Statistics also suggest, on the whole, that while Americans are becoming sexually active at a young age, they are also doing so more safely than in years past. Up from 54 percent in 2005, 63 percent of high school students reported using condoms. In addition, 91 percent of men and 83 percent of women said they used some form of contraception during their last sexual encounter.

It is clear which part of sexual education the students in America are paying attention to. Perhaps this should be considered before dump billions of dollars into programs that, at home and abroad, don’t work.

Abstinence should still be a component in education, but it definitely should not be the crux of anti-AIDS programs, especially not when people’s lives are at risk.

Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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