The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda

Citation:

Cohen, Jonathan, and Tony Tate. 2006. "The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda." Reproductive Health Matters 14 (28): 174-8.

Authors: Jonathan Cohen, Tony Tate

Abstract:

Widely hailed as a leader in the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Uganda is redirecting its HIV prevention strategy for young people away from scientifically proven and effective strategies toward ideologically driven programs that focus primarily on promoting sexual abstinence until marriage. Although endorsed by some powerful religious and political leaders in Uganda, this policy and programmatic shift is nonetheless orchestrated and funded by the United States government. Pioneered in the United States in 1981, “abstinence until marriage” programs (also known as “abstinence only” programs) teach that abstaining from sex until marriage is the only effective method of HIV prevention and that marriage between a man and a woman is the expected standard of human sexual behavior. Numerous U.S.-funded studies have shown these programs to be ineffective at changing young people’s sexual behaviors and to cause potential harm by discouraging the use of contraception. The effect of Uganda’s new direction in HIV prevention is thus to replace existing, sound public health strategies with unproven and potentially life-threatening messages, impeding the realization of the human right to information, to the highest attainable standard of health, and to life.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS

Annotation:

Abstinence-only HIV/AIDS programs have no relevance for LGBT individuals in Uganda, as the government denies the very existence of LGBT individuals. This report recommends that “the special needs of vulnerable populations [including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons] are explicitly recognized in national and local HIV prevention policies and programs.” (178)

Topics: Gender, Health, HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Sexuality Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2006

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