Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Republican Culture of Life

According to the NY Times, the Brazil government has decided to forego US AIDS aid rather than give in to moralistic demands placed on recipients of that aid.
For years now, they have been distributing condoms to the prostitutes who work the streets, part of the Brazilian government's larger effort to hold AIDS in check.

Until recently, the condom campaign of the group called Fio da Alma had been partly financed through the United States Agency for International Development. But no longer: rather than comply with an American demand that all foreign recipients of AIDS assistance must explicitly condemn prostitution, Brazil has decided to forgo up to $40 million in American support.

"Our feeling was that the manner in which the Usaid funds were consigned would bring harm to our program from the point of view of its scientific credibility, its ethical values and its social commitment," Pedro Chequer, director of the Brazilian government's AIDS program, said in an interview in BrasilĂ­a. "We must remain faithful to the established principles of the scientific method and not allow theological beliefs and dogma to interfere."

Experts here and abroad say the disagreement over how to deal with prostitution is symptomatic of a larger conflict between Brazil and the United States over AIDS policy. Brazil, which spends more than $400 million annually on what is regarded as the most successful AIDS program in the developing world, is taking a pragmatic approach in combating the global epidemic, the experts say, while the United States, increasingly, is not.

"It's not as if you're choosing between two neutral policy programs," said Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Brazil has good data to show that their approach works, and to ask them to change that, even if they get the additional money, to one for which there is no evidence, just because of moral squeamishness in the United States, is an extraordinary position to take."
This controversy is fairly simple. The US Congress has said that if you want our money you must take our morality with it. This makes the conservatives happy and if people die because of it, well, that is the Lords will. And if it weakens one of the most effective AIDS program in the world, who cares.
"The Brazilian program very early on attempted to recognize that this is a pandemic that could travel through the population if there weren't programs to provide education and give special attention to vulnerable groups," said Mark Schneider, who was the Agency for International Development's director for Latin America in the Clinton administration and has worked at the Pan-American Health Organization.

"They attempted to take out the stigma and practice safe sex so as to prevent the epidemic from expanding, and in that way they were well ahead of other countries, particularly in the developing world."

But the Brazilian approach is anathema to many conservatives in the United States because it makes use of methods seen as morally objectionable. Brazil not only operates a needle and syringe exchange program for drug addicts but also rejects the Bush administration's emphasis on abstinence, being faithful and the controlled use of condoms, the so-called ABC approach, in favor of a pragmatism that recognizes that sexual desire can sometimes overwhelm reason.

"Obviously abstinence is the safest way to avoid AIDS," Dr. Chequer said. "But it's not viable in an operational sense unless you are proposing that mankind be castrated or genetically altered, and then you would end up with something that is not human but something else altogether."
Like a neo-con pseudo christian?


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