Africa awaits Obama, but…

Article written by Aine Collier

Many African organizations who are struggling to provide education about condom use as the tidal wave of HIV/AIDS on that continent just gets bigger, watched the American presidential race with great interest, all believing that Obama could be a real god-send in helping overturn some of the Bush policies on STD and birth control prevention.

Some of those policies have been cited for hindering STD prevention efforts, especially when it comes to condom education, which has led America’s national health watchdog, the Centers for Disease Control, to pull some of its condom information from its Web site. The director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation says “The U.S. administration has certainly succeeded in demonizing condoms rather than showing that they can be part of prevention of both unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.”

Under Bush, restrictions were placed on both national and international AIDS funding; any national or international agency funded or in need of funding from the US were sanctioned if they dared whisper the word abortion.

Abstinence-only education, which has not worked and has hampered family planning and STD prevention efforts, was the only education the current president would hear of. Not so Obama’s. Or as his aid put it: “We have been going in the wrong direction, and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family planning services and strengthening public health.”

Although he has not come right out and stated exactly what he will do differently, to include about condom education, it is clear that Obama’s policies, as his representatives put it, will “reflect what works.” But with all the excitement about the coming changes, those same African agency leaders are not completely convinced that changes in policy will overcome all the problems they face in trying to educate their nations’ populations, especially given all the financial disasters awaiting America’s new president.

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