It’s April Fools Day and we’re catching up on reading that makes us do double takes. Is the Texas legislator who suggested moving HIV prevention funding to abstinence programs really a physician? (Apparently yes). Could Nigeria’s presidential election outcome be good news for the nation’s lagging HIV response? (Depends — but during the campaign both the candidate and his opposition, incumbent Goodluck Jonathan indicated that Buhari would improve Nigeria’s public health responses). And more than a year into West Africa’s outbreak of Ebola, a disease spread by contact with body fluids, did the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have to “scramble” to come up with safer sex recommendations? And, speaking of safer sex, was the Zimbabwan teenager who was discovered to be carrying a condom a) commended for his good sense, or b) suspended from school? Read on for answers, and be prepared to suspend disbelief . . .
Tense Debate as House Shifts HIV Funding to Abstinence – Each sentence of this story, about a Texas legislator’s successful push to shift funding for HIV prevention to programs promoting abstinence until marriage, is hard to believe, including the insistence on the part of the legislator, who is a physician, that “abstinence education is HIV prevention. They are essentially the same thing.” Other highlights including the legislator’s discussion of his own sexual history, and his apparent belief that HIV is transmitted only through sex.
Nigeria’s Election Results See Goodluck Jonathan Ousted in Favor of Muhammadu Buhari – The loss and concession by an incumbent in a Nigerian presidential election is a first, and already signals the potential for significant change. This article looks at what else might change, from responses to Boko Haram, to the country’s anti-gay law — which preceded Uganda’s since-overturned law — and which has damaged already flailing responses to HIV in Nigeria. The article points out that Jonathan’s campaign alleged Buhari would act to repeal the law, but also notes that allegation could have just been an unfounded appeal to bigotry. It remains to be seen. Buhari has pledged not only to work with international agencies to address the country’s HIV epidemic, but promised to “tolerate no religious, regional, ethnic or gender bias.”
Liberia Recommends Ebola Survivors Practice Safe Sex Indefinitely – With word that one of Liberia’s last Ebola patients appears to have been infected by contact with semen well after the the 82 days thought to be a limit for how long that contact posed a danger, Liberian officials are recommending that male Ebola survivors use condoms or abstain from sex “indefinitely.” More than a year after the outbreak was recognized, agencies involved in responding to it are said to be “urgently reviewing the issue.”
Activists Protest Denial of Condoms to Africa’s High Risk Groups – This article highlights the difference between “high risk groups” and “high risk behaviors,” because upholding policies that deny condoms to teenagers and prisoners is a high risk behavior on the part of officials whose negligence affects populations that are “high risk groups” at least in part because of those policies.