Condom Education Wins Out Over Abstinence
President-elect Barack Obama will reverse U.S. family-planning and AIDS-prevention strategies that have long linked global funding to anti-abortion and abstinence education, a public-health adviser said.
Public-health policies of President George W. Bush’s $45- billion PEPFAR program have brought AIDS drugs to almost 3 million people in poor countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, more than under any other president. Still, requirements that health workers emphasize abstinence from sex and monogamy over condom use have set back sexually transmitted disease prevention and family planning globally, said Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of Obama’s advisory committee for women’s health.
“We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning services and strengthening public health,” said Wood, a research professor at George Washington University School of Public Health in Washington.
Bush on his first day in office, in January 2001, reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy — known to critics as the global gag rule. It bars U.S. family-planning assistance for organizations that use funding from any other source to provide counseling and referral for abortion, lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country, or perform abortions except in cases of a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest.
Obama “is committed to looking at all this and changing the policies so that family-planning services — both in the U.S. and the developing world — reflect what works, what helps prevent unintended pregnancy, reduce maternal and infant mortality, prevent the spread of disease,” Wood said.