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Flaws of Global Abstinence-Until-Marriage Programs
Government Accountability Office Report Finds U.S. AIDS Policy Is Unworkable
Washington, DC — Today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an illuminating report criticizing the effectiveness of abstinence-until-marriage programs in the prevention of HIV/AIDS on a global scale.
"The abstinence-only requirement in the Global AIDS bill is impractical, irresponsible, and immoral," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). "What this new report clearly shows is that the Administration's approach to AIDS prevention is essentially unworkable."
The U.S. State Department requires that two-thirds of funding devoted to preventing sexual transmission of AIDS must be spent on programs that encourage abstinence-until-marriage education. The GAO report, an unbiased analysis, highlights that this abstinence earmark is unworkable, as it disallows USAID workers in each country to tailor a country-specific approach to stemming the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It also requires money to be spent on abstinence when it would be more effectively spent on other prevention activities; this is especially true in countries where the epidemic has spread into the general population.
Through extensive surveys of staff implementing the Global AIDS Plan — both U.S.-based and country-based — GAO found that the abstinence-until-marriage requirement hinders the overall U.S.-funded prevention work being done globally. More than half of the focus-country teams reported that the abstinence-only requirement undermines their ability to integrate abstinence, fidelity, and condom use for a broader prevention message.
Additionally, the abstinence-only requirement diverts funds and attention away from high-risk populations, for whom an abstinence-message is particularly inappropriate. Examples of these populations are sex workers, sexually active young people, and married couples in which only one partner is HIV-positive. It also reduces attention to the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
"Every day an estimated 13,400 people contract HIV," continued Richards. "We need to focus our HIV-prevention efforts on proven methods, including medically accurate sexuality education and fully realized reproductive rights, including access to condoms."