Defeating Ignorance, AIDS and Teen Pregnancy

A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report released in February revealed that more than nine in 10 Texas school districts teach students nothing about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention when it comes to sex except for abstinence-only-until-marriage. One of the most common strategies in abstinence-only curricula, the study’s authors found, was wildly exaggerating the failure rate of condoms as a way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The goal of those programs, of course, is to persuade students that the only way to protect themselves is is through abstinence.

Countless medical studies have shown this approach to be fear-mongering fiction, not responsible education. Now we have another example — the fight against AIDS in Haiti:

In the early 1980s, when the strange and terrifying disease showed up in the U.S. among migrants who had escaped Haiti’s dictatorship, experts thought it could wipe out a third of the country’s population.

Instead, Haiti’s HIV infection rate stayed in the single digits, then plummeted.

In a wide range of interviews with doctors, patients, public health experts and others, The Associated Press found that Haiti’s success in the face of chronic political and social turmoil came because organizations cooperated and tailored programs to the country’s specific challenges.

Much of the credit went to two pioneering nonprofit groups, Boston-based Partners in Health and Port-au-Prince’s GHESKIO, widely considered to be the world’s oldest AIDS clinic.

“The Haitian AIDS community feels like they’re out in front of everyone else on this, and pretty much they are,” said Judith Timyan, senior HIV/AIDS adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Haiti. “They really do some of the best work in the world.”

Researchers say the number of suffers was initially lessened by closing private blood banks, and statistically by high mortality rates — an untreated AIDS sufferer in Haiti lives eight fewer years than an untreated American.

Well-coordinated use of AIDS drugs, education and behavioral changes such as increased condom use have kept the disease from surging back, at least for now.

Meanwhile, education campaigns spread the word on prevention measures. More than 51 million free condoms have been shipped to the country of since 2004 and are advertised everywhere on street murals and corner store signs. (emphasis added)

“More Haitians know about modes of transmission than high school students in the U.S.,” Pape said. (Dr. Jean W. Pape is co-founder GHESKIO.)

The article notes that Haiti still faces substantial hurdles in fighting AIDS, but ignorance isn’t one of them. On the other hand, in Texas — which has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation — keeping teens ignorant is the preferred strategy in most public schools. And religious-right pressure groups did a lot to keep that strategy in place during the last legislation session.

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3 Comments

  1. Alice
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Abstinence isn’t the “bad” word that today’s culture makes it out to be. It’s actually the exact opposite – it’s a positive choice that teens can make to ensure a brighter and healthier future. Teens who choose abstinence don’t have to worry about STD’s or STI’s, and they don’t have to carry the emotional baggage that having sex brings. An abstinent teen can keep a clear mind to help make positive, healthy choices for their future. And most importantly, being abstinent means that you never have to live with regrets.

    “Game Plan” is a great abstinence-based curriculum that many schools across the United States are using. To learn more about “Game Plan”, visit http://www.justsayyes.org

  2. Posted July 7, 2009 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    I am proud of Haiti’s campaign to prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases [STD’s], when you consider that they are the absolutely poorest nation in the entire Western Hemisphere….kudos to them! Sadly our state of Texas…which is dominated by a cabal of right-wing, Liberal-Christian hating, religious fanatics who are in bed with…as we speak….having un-protected sex with their Republican party cohorts…these evil Texas Talibans have killed many innocent Texans with their abstinence only programs!
    Leonard Pitts, a syndicated newspaper columnists…[Houston Chronicle], and African American man, has recently written a very good article that criticizes the Conservative Christians in the Black community…who have promoted the non-sense of the Abstinence Only sex education programs…while AIDS, teen pregnancy, homophobia, and twenty-seven other sexually transmitted diseases, ravages urban centers and the Black communities in Houston, and other US cities.
    Black conservative preachers [religious fanatics], thinks that “Denial” is a river…some place in Africa…and that barrier protection [CONDOMS]…is a group of islands, someplace, off the coast of South Carolina! The whole while STD’s and high mortality rates from AIDS, continues to devastate the lives of Brothers & Sisters in America. To bad those Liberal hating, Gay bashing, Black, right-wing, TV preachers can’t get a clue from the good citizens of Haiti!
    We need to clean house at all levels of government in Texas…and vote all of these nasty, viscious, foul-mouthed, Liberal-Christian hating, Republican goons, out of public office here in our fair state. And because the Jail Industrial Complex in Texas, contributes to the AIDS and drug resistant Tuberculosis epidemic that is ravaging our state…it would do Texas a whole lot of good on a Public Health footing, to close 85% of all these concentration camp gulag prisons here…and to release hundreds of thousands of non-violent pot political prisoners…back to their loving families. That’s the Christian thing to do!
    Herman…Liberal-Christian…Alvin, Texas.

  3. Charles
    Posted July 5, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    The Religious Right is convinced that the advent of the birth control pill in the 1960s caused the so-called Sexual Revolution, which increased the frequency of sexual sin per unti population in the United States. The purpose of abstinence-only sex education in Texas is to reduce the frequency of sexual sin per unit population to a level sufficient to prevent a plague, the raining of frogs, or testicle loss by all male black angus cattle in the state. They almost surely believe that the effective sex education that TFN advocates will lead to a massive outbreak of sexual sin on the landscape of Texas—an outbreak that the Religious Right feels is under control right now. As for the high number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, the Religious Right must feel that the frequency of sin in this realm, while high, is still well below a threshold number beyond which a plague-like visitation would occur. Therefore, because Texas has not been hit by a 1000 ft. tsunami, abstinence only sex education is working adequately to prevent sexual sin among the youth of Texas.

    However, they have forgotten an important factor. Cumulative sin. “Cumulative sin” is defined as the slow incremental accumulation of sin from a variety of sources, which if given enough time, will snowball the sin thermometer up to a dangerous level. When one considers the collective sins of the leftists, rightists, and centrists in Texas, it is a wonder that there still is a state of Texas.

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