Wednesday, May 17, 2006

AIDS Prevention Strategies

For those not familiar with the website TheFactIs.Org, I highly recommend it for some great articles on social issues. An article posted on Monday, entitled "AIDS at 25: The Current Strategy Has Failed" by Dale O'Leary contains some powerful insights into the current strategies for dealing with AIDS. O'Leary argues that the current strategy of prevention for combating AIDS has failed because, regardless of the amount of millions of dollars put into education and condoms, "the number of persons living with AIDS has increased dramatically...." O'Leary points out that it is rather easy to avoid HIV infection:
A person who is chaste before marriage, faithful in marriage and married to someone who is also faithful, who receives high quality medical care, and who doesn't inject illegal drugs as virtually zero chance of becoming HIV positive. (emphasis added)
Chastity before and during marriage provides a solid method for the prevention of HIV infection. "If prevention is so easy," O'Leary asks, "why is the epidemic continuing unabated?" The following response to the question shows the unfortunate political nature of the public strategy for dealing with the prevention of HIV infection. O' Leary writes:
Because a coalition of AIDS patients and activists set up an AIDS establishment which vetoed every tested public health strategy for controlling a sexually transmitted disease. Don't tell people not to engage in promiscuity, prostitution, and injected drug use, they insisted, just tell them to be responsible and use safe sex. This hasn't worked because people who engage in "multi-partnering," employ "sex workers," and have "substance abuse" problems are by definition not responsible. The research shows there is a clear connection between irresponsible sexual behaviors and alcohol and drug abuse. Twenty-five years of experience has proven that no matter how much safe sex education the irresponsible receive they will not use a condom every time. And therefore the epidemic will continue. (emphasis added)
The strategy of the prevention of spreading AIDS through the propagation of safe-sex education has failed. People who engage in risky sexual or drug use behavior cannot be considered to ever be responsible. Isn't it ironic that these teachers of safe-sex are preaching to deaf ears? How we help people take on responsibility, that is something I am not prepared to argue at this point.

So what should we do to prevent the spreading of AIDS? First, O'Leary says that we have to get away from the AIDS establishment controlling the public policy in this area. Second O'Leary suggests that we have to implement, what I view as a pretty aggressive strategy for targeting the spread of AIDS. O'Leary suggests the following methods which "were suggested and rejected at the beginning of the epidemic":
1) mandatory testing of at risk populations, people seeking health care, those applying for health insurance or Medicaid, everyone under arrest, and pregnant women; 2) contact tracing and partner notification; 3) cracking down on the statutory rape of young women and sexual child abuse; 4) making knowingly infecting another person a crime; 5) abstinence education.
I am not sure if I agree with all of these suggestions. I have not given it much thought to be honest about how best to combat the spreading of AIDS. Would aggresive forms of testing to the groups mentioned above really make a difference in the prevention of AIDS? Surely it will make some of them more aware and help some stop the spreading of AIDS. I am not sure it will change people's behavior in the long run because as O'Leary notes the AIDS establishment has aggrestively sought to protect and promote sexual liberation over the goal of preventing new infections. As long as sexual liberation and sexual pleasure are the foci of people, no amount of aggresive testing will change things because it comes down to the responsibility issue. How do we imbue sexual behavior with a sense of responsibility. For Catholics, it is pretty easy. You turn to the Church and its' guidance which points to marriage as the ONLY and PROPER place for sexual activity. But for those who do not hold such a view, how do we provide those people with a framework in which to understand chastity outside of marriage and chastity within marriage? I do not have any answers here either.

Regardless of the many questions that exist on such an issue, it is important to see an examination of AIDS prevention strategies and where improvement can be made, and O'Leary certainly is to be commended for taking on the current "safe sex" prevention strategy and showing what a sham it really is.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

It seems to me there could be two tactics: 1. The scare tactic. Instead of saying, "just use a condom and have fun," the emphasis should be, "just using a condom might not prevent you from getting a deadly and painful disease!" 2. The priority tactic. It could be emphasized that pure physical pleasure is not the highest priority and that securing one's health is important enough to delay physical gratification until one is in a marital relationship with someone similarly prioritizing.