March 31, 2005

When even a gloomy assessment is wishful thinking

Nick Kristof probably thinks he is expressing appropriate cynicism when he writes, "In theory, everybody agrees on how to prevent AIDS [in Africa]: the ABC method, which stands for abstinence, being faithful and condoms. But the Bush administration interprets this as ABc. New administration guidelines stipulate that U.S.-financed AIDS programs for young people must focus on abstinence or, for those who are already sexually active, 'returning to abstinence.'"

But not everybody agrees on ABC -- or even ABc -- at all. Recently I covered the national convention of the Abstinence Clearinghouse for Playboy. The Clearinghouse is the umbrella organzation for abstinence pushers, and thus the movement's most influential voice.

Though its focus is national, it has a growing international component as well, and at the convention, founder and president Leslie Unruh introduced a delegation from Africa. "National Abstinence Clearinghouse will never be ABC," Unruh declared to cheers. The African contingent had one statement they wanted her to pass along, she said: "Tell American mixed-message people keep your condoms at home. We don’t want them.”

But perhaps reasonable and cogent arguments like Kristof's will persuade Unruh's people to find some way to compromise? Well, here's what she said about that: "I was asked a couple of weeks ago, 'Wouldn’t you like common ground?'" Here her voice dripped with sarcasm. "'Wouldn’t you like to invite people to the table?' We are the table now. We set the table. And we are not budging."

Frankly, we're lucky the administration still has 'c' in the mix at all, capitalized or not.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Anything But Condoms?

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