Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Watching "The Point" Is Risky Behavior for Your Mental Health

Mark Hyman makes yet another claim that is both factually wrong and inherently immoral when he says “too many AIDS activists are more interested in condoning risky behavior than in treating or ending the disease.”

Does he really mean this? Does he actually think that people who devote themselves to fighting AIDS are actually in the business of promoting unsafe sex and drug use than stopping the disease?

I’m not sure. In reality, this claim, like the rest of
Hyman’s recent commentary on the recent International AIDS Conference, has little to do with having a discussion about how to best stop the disease, and a lot to do with the domestic “culture war” that many on the radical right have been fighting for the better part of two decades.

In this respect, Hyman’s editorial bears a striking similarity to the Bush policy on AIDS that he champions. Hyman says the Bush administration’s promise of billions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa and elsewhere has been unfairly attacked because the administration favors tactics that he claims “stop the main causes of AIDS . . . unprotected sex, often with multiple partners, and from using infected needles.

Because many of those involved on the ground level in the fight against AIDS have questioned this approach, he says they are condoning “risky” behavior at the expense of stopping the disease.

Here’s the problem: although the Bush administration has promised $15 billion to fight AIDS, only a small trickle of that has actually materialized so far, often coming at the expense of domestic health programs that help women and children. Additionally,
a significant percentage of the funding for AIDS prevention is earmarked for abstinence education, not sexual education, information on condom use, etc.

Hyman says that people should simply stop having unsafe sex. But in Africa, the sad truth is that women are often under cultural, social, and economic pressures that prevent them from making this decision. In many cases, men are allowed to have any number of sexual partners before marriage, and even continue having multiple partners once married. Their wives, living in societies that don’t allow them to say no to their husbands, end up paying the price. Hyman’s pie-in-the-sky solution, one that flies in the face of reality even when applied to a much more egalitarian society
, is horribly naïve when applied to Africa and other developing regions in which women have little or no economic or political power.

But again, this is assuming that preventing the disease is actually a concern of Hyman and the Bush administration. The reality is that the argument for focus on abstinence in preventing AIDS is simply a nod to part of the right wing base—the same part that objects to comprehensive sexual education in this country.

As a result of putting domestic politics ahead of science and human decency, people are dying. The
Government Accounting Office did a study showing that the strings attached to the Bush administration’s AIDS funding is causing problems in effectively treating the disease in developing countries.

Rather than treat the problem that exists, the Bush administration is allowing cultural warriors to hold millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people hostage to its particular moral agenda.

Could anything be less moral? Could anything be less Christian?

It’s a minor miracle that the Bush administration was even willing to promise billions of dollars to fight AIDS around the globe, despite the fact that the actual funds have been slow in arriving and have been used inefficiently. The administration deserves some praise for at least acknowledging the problem and making a pledge to help stop it.

But that pledge becomes nearly meaningless when it is used as a means of placating the president’s domestic political base rather than actually solving the problem.

Hyman goes one step further by not only championing a “solution” that puts politics ahead of progress, but in his hideous display of blaming the victim (complete with a healthy dose of implicit homophobia) in his charge that those in the trenches of the war on AIDS are more interested in promiscuous sex and drug using than they are in stopping the disease.

A couple of small points worth noting. Hyman cites Bill Clinton’s criticism of the U.S. policy of not providing funds to countries that have legalized prostitution (Clinton was the keynote speaker at the conference). Yet, Hyman doesn’t mention that Clinton actually came to the defense of the Bush administration when it was criticized for its abstinence policies, saying that the administration had done much good with its funding.

More intriguingly, it’s interesting that Hyman jumps on the suggestion made by some at the conference that making prostitution legal would help stem the tide of AIDS. Hyman says, “[p]rostitution exploits more women and children worldwide than anything else.” (Let’s table for the moment the fact that much of this exploitation is the result of prostitutions illegal status).

If Hyman feels so strongly about the evils of prostitution, I wonder why he chooses to work for a man who
has gone down in infamy as an incredible whoremonger. As you might remember, David Smith, CEO of Sinclair Broadcasting, was caught with his pants down in a company car with a lady of easy virtue in Baltimore a few years back, and according to Sinclair insiders, it was hardly his first time.

So I ask you Mark: why do you work for a man who helps contribute to the exploitation of women and children?

I’m just wondering.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 6.45


At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

those who live in glass houses shouldn't be hosting nasty far-right propaganda shows.


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