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Posted by on Mar 17, 2007 in At TMV | 11 comments

‘Tom, What’s My Opinion?’

When asked about whether he favors using tax payers’ money to buy condoms for Africans to fight the spread of HIV, McCain answered that he didn’t know what his position on this matter was and that he would have to ask Tom Coburn.

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  • domajot

    Guiliani’s ‘I disagree with myself’ statement is far superior.

    McCain’s statement also points to how scary the subject of condoms is in some circles.

    There is quite a debate going on at MvG’s other site, so I want to bring it here.

    The subject turning to the ABC program, my stand is that whether or not lessons in abstinence work is less important than denying funding to local programs that don’t adhere to US guidelines.

    People have little choice in what their local administrations choose as policy. US policy seems to indicate that if a person is in the wrong district/country, no condoms for you, and if you die, too bad.

  • If Republicans, especially the more conservative ones, have demonstrated one thing over the past 30 years, it’s an anything-to-win/ends-justify-the-means compulsion. Raising and spending $200 million on a single campaign. Lying, cheating and stealing. Making character assassination de rigeur. Attempting bribery and extortion of the floor of the House of Representatives, as House leaders did during the crooked vote on the crooked prescription drug assistance bill. All that and more, so Republicans can win and win and go on winning.

    Keep that in mind for a moment.

    In this matter, if the desired end is to minimize deaths from HIV/AIDS, then helping buy and distribute condoms is a no brainer. That’s especially so when one considers how many women and girls in Aftrica and elsewhere in the Third World are raped, forced into prostitution to help their families survive and otherwise sexually exploited. The need becomes even more acute in humane terms when one considers the number of babies born to women who’ve contracted AIDS.

    I’ve yet to see even the most ardent religious-right true believer spend a lot of time praying over a pile of corpses or wandering daily through a cemetery, trying to so save the souls of the departed ex post facto.

    So, doesn’t it simply make more sense to do whatever it takes to save lives and prevent the spread of this deadly disease complex, and worry about curbing people’s lustful and, in the Christian right’s view sinful, tendencies later and in other ways?

    Anyone who has to do intensive research and consult with the likes of Tom Coburn, who I’m pretty sure would be OK with some good old-fashioned witch burnings, has no business getting into the White House on a visitor’s pass, much less as a president.

    Final note while we’re on the subject of saving souls. Isn’t it obvious McCain is selling his to the radical right/Christian right, in the embarrassing way he’s seeking the presidency?

    One more time, one more Republican, it’s anything to win.

  • Cjordan

    one word: pathetic.

  • C Stanley

    Yes, S. W. Anderson, I’m quite sure all of those African women being raped can ask the perpetrator to hold up for a few seconds to please slip a condom on.

    While you decry the extremists on the right, you miss the irony of your polarized left opinion which ignores the common sense of education + condom distribution being the superior method. Not to mention the very large amounts of money now budgeted for education and prevention of non-sexual transmission (dealing with the widespread tragedy of maternal to infant transmission and blood transfer). Sorry, it’s not all about condoms.

  • C Stanley

    What you are asserting about these guidelines being forced is simply not true. I watched the Congressional report on CSpan and the director of the Africa HIV program explained that the funding guidelines are altered from one country to another based on what the govts of those countries feel is appropriate for their situation. In some countries, the percentage of “A+B” money is a bit higher while in other countries, the “C” money is higher. Even if the US was forcing the “A+B+C” on countries that only wanted “C”, I would think that is the right thing to do given that common sense and evidence indicates that this is the most effective way to fight sexual transmission of HIV. But the fact is that the African countries understand this as well and the recipients of the aid are not complaining.

  • domajot

    Let’s get the kudos to
    Mr. Bush out of the way first. Certainly, any funding for HIV is better than none, and I’m grateful he has increased our participation.

    =Regading the denial of funds, we have only to recall Brazil’s case.
    The requirement to condemn prostitution is punitive, and basically advocates that it is better to starve your children than to earn money for their food by doing nasty things, much like a policy of burning opium crops without providing alternatives.

    In a suit brought by two separate organizaions, a federal judge ruled that imposing this rule on NGOs went against first amendment rights.

    Remember that not all rape takes place in a back alley. In many societies, a woman is not free to choose within marriage. Nor can she require her husband to be tested before welcoming him home.

    Needless to say, the word ‘abortion’ may not be spoken. So a poor woman must carry all pregnancies to term, may not indulge in anything unsavory to support them whether she has an alternative or not, but must be grateful for whatever treatment she does receive.

    Basically,I find the whole approach offensive. When funding is dependent on bedroom morality, it smacks of comdemming the sinner rather than the disease.

    We are accused daily of having an imperialistic attitude. This is one way we are proving our critics right.

    I hasten to add that I have nothing against teaching abstinence as one way to reduce risk.

    I do have serious questions about funding faith based abstinence only programs like we do. Odd that we would try to exert moral pressure in one direction but none at all in another.

  • C Stanley

    It might help me to better understand your arguments if you’d provide some links as to the court cases you mentioned because I’m not familiar with them. I’m not saying this to doubt you but I just can’t address your points unless I know what you are talking about.

    I can understand your general concerns about the participation of faith based organizations and about the morality issues that surround sexual transmission. However, on the first point I think there’s been an overstatement about how much the faith based organizations are either imposing their religious beliefs or having to change their practices by participating in these programs. On the second point (about morality), I think this gets quite twisted in discussions as well because the fact is that behavior does influence transmission of the disease and you can’t effectively change the infection rates unless you’re willing to admit that it might require education and an attempt to influence behavior. I think that this concept is taken too far by some faith based groups because they won’t accept a pragmatic approach to change behavior as much as possible but accept that some people will still engage in the risky behavior so we still have to deal with that. But I also find that the way you state it goes too far in the other direction; assuming that we can’t talk about the behaviors or try to influence them because that would be a condemning attitude. Condemning and stating factual risks of behavior are two very different things.

  • domajot

    I read about the court cases in “Medical News Today’ May 12. 2006.

    The funding of faith based abstinence only programs refers to Uganda’s (not US) progarms funded by the
    US. I find it odd that in this case we don’t apply pressurre to achieve a balanced approach.

    I have never been opposed to talking about abstinence. I am opposed to putting that first, instead of providing practical remedies first. I am also opposed to preaching abstinence where it doesn’t apply: wives who have no say.

    I am opposed to the clause condemming prostitution. It punishes rather than helps.

    I am also opposed to US insisting on brand name drugs instead of promoting cheaper generics to make the aid dollar stretch further.

    I am opposed to first and foremost imposing our will rather than getting down to the business of helping the afflicted. Advising rather than imposing is a much better approach.

    This would be a good opportunity for diplomacy outreach, and we’re blowing it, as usual.

    You say the receiver countries are happy. I wouldn’t expect them to bite the hand that holds the money. In private interviews, case workers express frustrations (there were some televised after the HIV/AIDS composium). The UN envoy’s (Lewis)report is also illuninating.

    Again, no one says it’s all bad, bad, bad. It’s just such a shame that opportunies are lost for the sake of ideology.
    This could have been something to improve our image, but…

  • C. Stanley, FWIW, no one’s suggesting handing out condoms is the sole way to curb the spread of AIDS or that doing that would be 100 percent effective.

    It makes sense to do all we can do. Including education efforts that in part discourage promiscuousness makes sense. But making that approach most or all of the effort is foolhardy. Also making condoms as widely and easily available as possible is absolutely necessary.

  • C Stanley

    I accept your assertion that no one here is suggesting that handing out condoms should be the sole action. However, I’m pointing out that there are such people and past programs really did focus almost exclusively on this (and I’m also trying to point out that the other extreme that people here are arguing against is a bit of a strawman as well, because most social conservatives don’t demand programs that are 100% abstinence either). And, even the people who criticize the ABC plan for not focusing enough on the C part, or criticize it for giving out condoms to only the high risk groups, are ignoring that resources are never unlimited so if we all agree that the comprehensive approach is more effective then there is going to be a need to prioritize where the “C” money will be spent. That would be the case with any epidemiological approach toward reduction of a disease (targeting prevention toward the high risk groups) but it’s only because the high risk groups are determined in part by sexual behavior (which has a moral component) that people are seeing this in a different light as though we are “judging” or “condemning” people. We wouldn’t see it that way if we were talking about prevention of malaria or some other infectious disease; it would be perfectly logical to administer prophylactics or vaccines to the groups most at risk for contracting the disease. This benefits the entire population because you attack the infectious agent’s ability to spread rapidly; and in the case of giving out the condoms to prostitutes, for example, you are also indirectly protecting women whose partners visit those prostitutes even though you might not be giving out the condom to that particular guy when he has sex with his wife/partner, he had the benefit of using one when he had sex for pay so that he won’t be so likely to carry the disease home.

    Thanks for the information source. I’ll agree with you on the lawsuit, the outcome of that was appropriate because although we should educate people to understand that the sex trade promotes spread of disease, the “pledge” was unconstitutional and inappropriate.

    On the issue of patented vs. generic meds, I assume you are aware that this issue was handled in 2004 so that the US does NOT insist on patented meds or US made meds. It does insist on quality control, and so in 2004 the FDA fast track process was instituted and as of 2006 there were 34 anti-retroviral drug combos approved through this process so that generics manufactured anywhere in the world can be used as long as they are verified to be effective. Doing otherwise would be highly dangerous (promoting new drug resistant strains of the disease to emerge) and irresponsible because the people in Africa who are infected deserve the same quality standards of treatment as do people in developed nations.

  • C. Stanley wrote, in part:

    “I’m also trying to point out that the other extreme that people here are arguing against is a bit of a strawman as well, because most social conservatives don’t demand programs that are 100% abstinence either . . .”

    You lay out a sensible, pragmatic and balanced case, CS. It’s one I would call progressive, realizing that’s a subjective conclusion on my part.

    However, I’ve read and heard enough to be very skeptical that “most social conservatives” favor such a balanced and pragmatic approach. If you’re correct about that, what has caused me to believe otherwise is probably a case of the most contrary social conservatives making the most noise and getting the most media exposure.

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