Posted on | March 14, 2011 by Contributor |
Human Rights Watch recently released a publication on HIV/AIDS in Mississippi entitled “Rights at Risk,” which focuses on the tragic HIV/AIDS prevalence and lack of access to care in the southern state.
The report claims that abstinence-only sex education curriculums, especially those that restrict condom demonstration in class, as well as those that do not address homosexual behaviors and practices, are to blame for the transmission rate. The report recommends that Mississippi get rid of abstinence-based sex education curriculums, and replace them with “comprehensive” curriculums that include information on condoms and homosexual behaviors.
Citing the high rate of sexually active teens in Mississippi, the report also demands access to condoms for the population, especially in and through sexual education curriculums. The report claims that
“until the state repeals laws that require the promotion of abstinence and restrict discussion of condoms, the lack of comprehensive sex education will continue to endanger the health of a young, sexually-active population.”
However, evidence that condoms are truly effective in preventing HIV transmission is lacking. Even IPPF admits that condoms are only 80-95% effective in preventing HIV transmission, and that only if used properly. The rate of effectiveness goes down with the addition of breakages, slippage, or any number of circumstantial factors. Promoting risky methods of HIV prevention and billing these methods as “safe,” while at the same time silencing any voices that encourage self-control & abstinence, is a morally questionable approach to the epidemic, and seems to be driven more by an ideology of sexual liberty than by true concern for the population.
The report also calls for the repeal of laws that criminalize HIV transmission in Mississippi, saying,
“Laws that single out HIV exposure for criminal penalties are unnecessary, discriminatory, and are considered by public health authorities as likely to undermine, rather than promote, the public health…”
While issues of stigma and discrimination remain a serious problem for those who reveal their HIV status, permitting or encouraging the withholding of one’s status, especially from a sexual partner, is irresponsible. Those who bear the burden of HIV/AIDS should be instructed and encouraged to act responsibly and respectfully towards those with whom they are intimate. In the case of willful withholding of HIV status, the exercise of one’s “rights” to non-discrimination and privacy can put others at serious risk.