Tuesday, April 17, 2007

U.S. Policy is Just Plain Wrong

While Africa is gaining the name of the "orphan continent" since so many children are losing their parents to AIDs, the U.S. continues to promote abstinence programs with a large percentage of its funds. A study program just published has revealed that they do not work.

Mr. Smith is in Sydney to address the World Congress for Sexual Health. He spoke to PM's Sabra Lane.

WILLIAM SMITH: This was a major, very sound study, paid for actually by the Federal Government. So it was their own commissioned study that found that what was about half a billion dollars invested had no impact whatsoever.

A side effect of the kind of programs the U.S. has was brought out today in an article in the LAT which observed that; the "practice of formal or informal polygamy links sexually active people not only to one another but also to the partners of their partners ... creating a giant web that can extend across huge regions," Epstein writes. According to Epstein, the issue has been "absent" from school-based HIV/AIDS education curriculums and "until recently," from national strategic plans to address the virus and in media and billboard campaigns. Abstinence-based education programs and condom promotion programs, which are the main sources for information on HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, might have "reinforced the idea that victims of the disease are those who are promiscuous rather than ordinary people in relatively ordinary relationships," Epstein writes. Promoting condom use is "important," but condoms alone won't stem the epidemic because they are "seldom used in long-term relationships," Epstein writes, adding that public health agencies in the region "must do more to inform Southern Africans about the dangers" of concurrent relationships (Epstein, Los Angeles Times, 4/15).

While actual research and actual pioneering efforts in the treatment of AIDs continues to give new hope to the continent that our recidivist executive department would avoid, the Gates Foundation is trying to work on new approaches to drug development in that and a lot of other areas.

A $287 million grants program announced last July -- creating an international network of 16 labs to try new approaches to making a vaccine against AIDS -- exemplifies the ground-breaking approach pioneered by the foundation.

It aims to transform the so-far unsuccessful AIDS vaccine effort by rewarding individual labs that come up with innovative ideas and helping them develop those ideas, while also ensuring they collaborate with rivals.

To get quick results, the new Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery may need to access and use patented compounds still under development at pharmaceutical and biotech firms, IMS said.

Pressure on Big Pharma is something badly needed in many areas other than research, of course, but this is a promising new 'partnership' of beneficent nonprofit pressure and the greedy, to my mind.

It isn't just the people of the U.S. alone suffering the long-term effects of blind ignorance in high office. We are inflicting it on the rest of the world as well. Meantime, however, the truly concerned are forging ahead without a backwards U.S. and making a real difference.

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