Monday, August 01, 2005

Fighting AIDS As A Moral and Pragmatic Issue

The Economist shows once again that there are rational conservatives in the world, but the American brand is an extremist aberration. They also provide another example of how the Bush Administration no right to claim to be "pro-life," along with their opposition to stem cell research, support for the Iraq war while failing to meaningfully oppose terrorism, and opposition to expanding access to health care.

The Economist, in an editorial entitled Too much morality, too little sense argues that "politicians must suspend moral judgments if AIDS is to be defeated." They point out that "As it is, AIDS is no respecter of morals: it affects babies as they are born, children as they are orphaned, nurses as they are accidentally pricked by a dirty needle, patients of any kind as they receive a transfusion of contaminated blood. Indeed, it affects the entire society in which its victims live and die."

The Economist is also critical of the Bush Administration's policies:

It also affects the faithful wife of the unfaithful husband. That is why the ABC slogan so beloved by the Bush administration—Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms—is, in practice, a slap in the face to many people. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief commits at least a third of its promised $15 billion to “abstinence until marriage” as the main way of stopping the spread of AIDS. It also urges that the use of condoms be confined to people who engage in “risky behaviour”—prostitutes or couples with one member who is HIV-positive. Many groups are reported to be ending or reducing their condom-promotion schemes to qualify for American money.

That might not matter if condoms did not matter, but they do. In the absence of a proper vaccine, an absence that is likely to continue for years, condoms are the best prophylactic available to anyone at risk of HIV infection through a sexual encounter, within or outside marriage (see article). Abstinence might, it is true, be better still, but abstinence will not, in the real world, be practised widely enough to bring AIDS under control. Now, in a further demonstration of its moral zeal, the Bush administration is insisting that all groups, American or foreign, that are engaged in the struggle against AIDS must declare their opposition to prostitution if they are to receive American money. The administration is also against all needle-exchange projects for drug addicts, one of the groups most likely to contract, and spread, AIDS in Russia, India and China.


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