News & CommentaryArchive
Mar 06, 2007
Condom Use Not Enough To Curb the Spread of HIV
A 2004 national study conducted in Botswana showed that 25 percent of the country’s adults are HIV-positive; among women in their early 30s living in Francistown, the number more than doubles. As originally posited by the writer Helen Epstein, the socio-cultural phenomenon behind Botswana’s infection rates is the practice of having two or three long-term sexual partners. This is more dangerous than one-time casual sex because the trust and intimacy developed over these long-term couplings make people less likely to use condoms, and having unprotected sex with all their partners allows infections to spread quickly.
Adding fuel to the fire is Botswana’s prevention programs, which have focused almost exclusively on condom distribution and promotion. Few are talking about faithfulness to one partner, more commonly known in the literature as “partner reduction.“ You may recognize partner reduction as one of the pillars of the proven ABC method (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) of HIV prevention—the pillar most often ignored by both extremes of the fight against AIDS. Encouraging people to reduce the number of sexual partners they have is possible (as seen in Uganda and Zimbabwe, as well as in the gay community in the United States, and places where previously high infection rates have fallen) and saves lives. We can only hope that this article is another step to waking up the world about the dangers of not pursuing a balanced ABC strategy in generalized epidemics.
Washington Post: Speeding HIV’s Deadly Spread