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Opinions of Friday, 29 November 2019

Columnist: Ekow Arthur-Aidoo


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The alphabets "ABC" resonates very well with the story of HIV/AIDS. The disease which has no cure destroys the human immune system when one contracts it through unprotected having sex with an infected partner.

Over the years, HIV/AIDS deaths among infected patients has been on the increase because in certain parts of the world money to purchase the anti-retroviral drugs has been a problem.

But scientists have indicated that when a patient gets such a drug, even though it won’t cure the disease, it will help in reversing the suppressed immunity very appreciable levels. This can actually help the patient live a very normal life.

"Antiretroviral therapy treats HIV by suppressing the virus' activity in the body. For most people who take them, these medications are very effective at keeping HIV under control," (Medical News Today).

Many ads of this deadly disease have always had the first three alphabets running through it. The ABC is explained as A (Abstinence), B (Be faithful) and C (Condom use). When the ad of HIV/AIDS does not go with these alphabets then maybe the ad wasn’t made for HIV/AIDD.

During sex education, individuals are made to understand that Abstaining/Abstinence from sexual intercourse is the surest bet of one not getting infected with the deadly virus. It also reduces the risk and harm associated with the disease.

Abstinence-only sex education is strictly to promote sexual abstinence until marriage and does not teach about safe sex or contraceptives. The abstinence-based sex education program is meant to stress abstinence and includes information on safe sex practices. In general terms, this strategy of sex education is a compromise between abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex education.

The ABC approach was developed in response to the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa especially, and to prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases. This approach has been credited by some with the falling numbers of those infected with AIDS in Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe especially, among places. Statistics from 1990 to 2001 show that the percentage of Ugandans living with AIDS fell from 15% to between 5 and 6%, (HIV/AIDS surveillance report, STD/AIDS control programme, Ministry of Health, Uganda, June 2001).

This decline is believed to have resulted from the employment of the ABC approach, especially reduction in the number of sex partners, called "Zero-Grazing" in Uganda.

Abstinence-based sex education can include issues of human relationships, the basic biology of human reproduction, safe sex methods and contraceptives, HIV/AIDS information, and masturbation in place of sex. It recommends sexual abstinence outside marriage as an ideal, having only a single long-term sexual partner.

The use of condoms and other safe sex practices is advocated only if it is not possible to remain with a single sexual partner. Advocating this ideal, whilst pragmatically dealing with the fact that abstinence only sex education is ineffective by itself, has made the ABC approach popular with many African governments and relief agencies.

The ABC approach has been used in African countries for years now. Versions of this approach have been used for abstinence only sex education in Uganda. Its positive impact has been confirmed by a 2009 Stanford University survey.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been around since the 1980s. The disease is believed to have originated in Kinshasa, DR Congo. It is said that HIV crossed from chimpanzees to humans.

It was only in the '80s when statistics first proved that many ignorant people were infected with HIV and later developed AIDS but did not know about it. HIV was unknown and transmission was not accompanied by noticeable signs or symptoms.

While sporadic cases of AIDS were documented prior to 1970, available data suggests that the current epidemic started in the mid-to-late 1970s. By 1980, HIV may have already spread to five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). In this period, between 100,000 and 300,000 people could have already been infected, (Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (1981) 'Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia among Homosexual Men- New York City and California' MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 30(25):305-308).