ABC from the ground up

“While virginity might seem a desirable state of being to some people, it is as useful in HIV/AIDS prevention as advising people to stay inside in order to reduce traffic accidents…” – Joke van Kampen in the DrumBeat

“The ABC D isaster”World AIDS Day 2005, along with the usual conferences, speeches and rallies around the globe, finally brought the voices to life that point at the failing and devastating effects of the ABC approach to HIV/AIDS prevention. The EU (in a statement) and the UN (report of the Task Force on Women and Girls and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa), testimonies, articles, and interviews, all simultaneously seem to pay attention to at least the limitations and often the adverse effects of the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom) approach.
ABC education has, at least for the time being, the power of the purse and has by now a coca cola like coverage in Africa. It is also highly standardised – you see the same manuals, slightly adjusted to local circumstances, over and over again, spreading from South Africa north to the borders of the Arab world.
Since the introduction of ABC there has been scepticism, but almost of an apologetic sort. What could be heard was that abstinence is “of course” the ideal but since the reality is different, the messages should be targeting sexually active people. All couples being faithful is “of course” what we all would like to see, but since the reality is different, we need to talk a lot about condoms. Over the years, the A and B of the ABC tend to get a lot more emphasis than the C (clearly reflected in the materials and manuals where condoms feature on the last one or two pages of the teachers’ guide). Something else also happened in the process: a whole generation of teachers, counsellors, and others involved in educating young people, who themselves enjoyed an at that time unprecedented sexual freedom in their adolescent years, are preaching abstinence without even confronting their own history, desires and practices within what they preach.

Full story available on DrumBeat

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