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Africa's future

National | How strong is the political left's opposition to abstinence education?

Issue: "Tyranny of the minority," June 7, 2003

How strong is the political left's opposition to abstinence education? During the congressional debate over the president's $15 billion plan to fight AIDS globally, a lobbyist representing liberal AIDS groups said no bill at all would be better than one with a requirement for abstinence education as a prevention strategy. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. asserted that the Bush administration's initiative-signed into law last week-would "cost countless lives" as a result of the abstinence provision.

Meanwhile, pro-family advocates hailed the inclusion of abstinence education as a victory-the first major pro-family success in 10 years of debate over combating AIDS. The provision requires that at least one-third of prevention funds-amounting to $1 billion-be dedicated to abstinence education.

Abstinence education was the centerpiece of the first successful African campaign to reduce HIV prevalence. Uganda's HIV prevalence fell from 15 percent in 1991 to 5 percent in 2001. Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni was in Washington last month, recounting her country's success story to senators on the eve of their vote on the global AIDS package. She repeated her husband's firm admonition, "If Africa's future depends on a thin layer of rubber, then Africa has no future."

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Jennifer Marshall
Jennifer Marshall

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