Patrick Craine

News,

Huge drop in Zimbabwe HIV rate fuelled by rise in abstinence, fidelity: UNAIDS-funded study

Patrick Craine

HARARE, Zimbabwe, February 15, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite the proliferation of massive condom campaigns in the fight against HIV/AIDS, another study has shown that the most effective strategy is to promote marital fidelity and sexual responsibility.

The new study from Zimbabwe, where HIV prevalence has dropped 50% since peaking in the late-1990s, found that the success was driven primarily by changes in sexual behavior, particularly a drop in casual, commercial, and extramarital sex.

“In Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, partner reduction appears to have played a crucial role in reversing the HIV epidemic,” wrote Daniel Halperin, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.  The study, published this month at PLoSMedicine.org, was commissioned by the UNFPA and UNAIDS.

The researchers found that the change in behaviour was motivated by fear of the infection, stemming from the country’s high rate of AIDS mortality.  They say it was amplified by economic decline because men had less money to pay for sex or to maintain multiple sexual relationships.

While it had been a badge of honor for a man to get an STD in Zimbabwe, it has become embarrassing and shameful, they note.

The researchers suggest that Zimbabwe has been more successful than other African countries in fighting AIDS because it has high levels of marriage and secondary education.  Hence the population was better able to act on AIDS education and prevention programs, and be more receptive to the “be faithful” messages.

While emphasizing the importance of fidelity and sexual responsibility, the paper does support condom use for casual sex.

Dr. Edward C. Green, president of the New Paradigm Fund and former director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard School of Health, told LifeSiteNews that this paper is simply “further evidence” of his long-held position that “fidelity (sometimes called partner reduction) and to a lesser extent, by abstinence (or late sexual debut) is what works best in AIDS prevention, especially in Africa.”

He said he also agrees with the paper’s finding that “when people are afraid of getting AIDS, they tend to use their common sense and curb promiscuous tendencies.”

Dr. Green has been a major critic of the AIDS-prevention establishment’s promotion of condoms.  He made headlines in 2009 when he backed Pope Benedict XVI’s argument that condoms actually “increase the problem” of HIV/AIDS.

“There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates,” he told National Review Online.  “This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”

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