Reporting on HIV/AIDS

Christine Gorman who writes the Global Health Report is back from a visit to South Africa and writing about HIV/AIDs in that country. Her report on grandmothers is particularly interesting to me because I’ve seen what grandmothers have done in spontaneous care-giving for children orphaned by this disease. It’s quite remarkable. The grandmothers of Africa are in many ways keeping the social fabric together. They have voluntarily taken in orphaned children and are providing them care, guidance, shelter and food. It’s a huge challenge that probably would have been impossible to organize formally. They just do it.

Christine’s report on loveLife, a sex education and teen empowerment organization, is also a great discussion of the challenges presented by sex education and unintended consequences.

Sex education is a subject that raises emotional hackles not only in the U.S., it’s also debated across Africa, particularly abstinence programs. These are being heavily promoted. Travel in Uganda, Libera and other countries and you will see billboard ads with images of youth and young adults promoting the value of sexual abstinence. But recent studies call into question the effectiveness of abstinence education. It appears teens who have committed to abstinence don’t stay with their pledge long-term. And, I learned from Christine’s report that an unintended consequence of abstinence from sexual intercourse is an increase in anal intercourse, and this is an even more effective means of transmitting the virus than intercourse.
As infection rates seem to be on the increase in Africa, it’s necessary to take a hard look at what is working, what isn’t and how to move forward more effectively. And as discomfiting as it may be, it will take straightforward analysis and conversation. Kids lives are in the balance.

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