Bush Abstinence Emphasis Criticized At Aids Summit

The White House effort to combat the global spread of HIV through abstinence has come under fire at an international AIDS conference.

Leading activists who addressed the International AIDS Con­ference in August sharply criticized the administration’s funding of the so-called “ABC plan.” That approach, pushed by religious groups, emphasizes abstinence until marriage as the major goal, being faithful to one sexual partner and the use of condoms only as a last resort, reported the Religion News Service.

“President Bush and the U.S. administration have to be told the ABC policy is killing people in the United States and the rest of the world,” said Anand Grover, an HIV/AIDS activist from India.

Bush’s $15 billion funding plan allocates 20 percent to HIV prevention. One third of that money must be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Another AIDS activist, Louise Binder of the Canadian Treatment Center, told the conferees that the Bush policy is unrealistic in male-dominated cultures.

“To my mind,” she said, “it is the most blatant example of policies made by men who know nothing about the real experience of women and girls. These strings are ropes around women’s necks.”

Much of the focus on abstinence has come from Bush’s core support among religious conservatives who view sex outside marriage as immoral. Many also take a dim view of condoms and say providing them at taxpayer expense encourages or condones extramarital sex.