Abortion rights advocates are using the XVII International AIDS Conference taking place this week in Mexico City to advance a pro-abortion agenda and to criticize the Catholic Church for not blessing the distribution of condoms. Known as “AIDS 2008,” the biennial conference is sponsored by the International AIDS Society and bears the supporting imprimatur of the United Nations’ UNAIDS agency and the World Health Organization.
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), a public interest law firm that advocates for abortion, is hosting three talks during AIDS 2008 addressing the denial of “medically necessary abortions” to HIV positive women, among other topics. CRR has long boasted that it “pioneered” the use of international litigation in seeking to impose abortion throughout Latin America and elsewhere. The group has been active in Mexico, filing a third-party intervention in a case currently pending before that country’s Supreme Court in support of a liberalized first-trimester abortion law passed by Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly last year.
Critics note that the only “Catholic” organization to participate formally in the Conference is the dissident group “Catholics for a Free Choice.” As part of the AIDS 2008 program, the pro-abortion group held a “skills-building workshop” called “Good Catholics Use Condoms: How to Answer the Tough Questions Surrounding HIV/AIDS Prevention and Religion.”
Katharina Rothweiler, the International Coordinator of the Mexican pro-life and pro-family organization Red Familia, criticized the presence of “pro-choice and pro-contraceptive lobby groups” at the conference. In response to the perceived emphasis that the officially-sponsored program places on condom distribution programs, Red Familia organized shadow events emphasizing “zero risk” abstinence and fidelity as a key to halting AIDS.
Anti-AIDS programs emphasizing such behavioral change succeeded in reducing the percentage of people infected with the HIV virus in the African nation of Uganda from over 20% in the early 90s to roughly 6% in a bit over a decade. Whereas in 1989, fifteen percent of Ugandan men had three or more sex partners per year, that number dropped to only 3 percent in 1995.
Uganda’s rejection of the condom-emphasizing approach, also known as the ABC model (Abstinence, Being Faithful, Condoms as a last resort), has earned it the enmity of the orthodox AIDS lobby. AIDS 2008 featured a symposium session chaired by Frances Kissling — the former president of “Catholics for a Free Choice,” who stepped down last year — aimed at discrediting the ABC approach as “ideological.”
Still, the Ugandan model is attracting notice. India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training recently announced that it would embrace the Ugandan emphasis on abstinence and fidelity in its sex education curricula. Significantly, a study authored by a research team headed by Harvard’s Daniel Halperin that appeared in the May 2008 issue of Science magazine, “Reassessing HIV Prevention,” found empirical evidence supporting aspects of the Ugandan approach.