Video via this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, regarding AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.

The difficulties faced by the children left behind in the horrible wake of AIDS in Africa are staggering.  These children manage to keep going despite their losses, with the help of extended family and village members and others.  But the sheer weight of poverty and desperation for so many of these children who are left with no one — and no hope — is beyond anything a child should ever have to bear.  And yet, they do.

We have AIDS issues in this country as well, as so many readers here know — and how we deal with them, both here and abroad, says a lot about who we are.  We can start by being honest instead of using AIDS as a kabuki version of some perverted morality play that ends up costing lives:

…the presidential candidates must commit to ensuring that all funding goes to the most effective interventions. Currently, one-third of the President’s Emergency Plan funding for HIV prevention goes to unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. A better way to spend this money would be in abstinence-based, comprehensive prevention programs that provide options for how a person can protect himself or herself from HIV. And the United States must encourage access to lower-cost generic medicine to treat more people for less money and save many more lives.

The AIDS crisis extends to the United States as well. Even in one of the richest countries of the world, people languish on waiting lists for AIDS drugs. Last year, four people died in South Carolina while on one of these lists. The next president must ensure access to medication for all people with HIV in this country by eliminating waiting lists.

Here is a truth: the use of condoms while having sex can substantially reduce the risk of transmitting the AIDS virus. Here’s another truth: no matter how much people may want to pretend otherwise, young people (and sometimes older people, too!) are going to have sex. Yes, there…I’ve said it. Let’s all take a deep breath and realize that people have sex. Sure, it would probably be better for everyone if they waited until they found their soulmate but…honestly…what are the odds that this argument really sticks with every horny 18 year old on the planet?  If they are going to have sex, the best way to prevent AIDS transmission is for them to do so using proper protection.  And sex isn’t the only way that people get HIV/AIDS, either, so shouldn’t we talk about that, too? 

Here’s a thought:  how about we all stop taking our healthcare policy cues from James Dobson and his “fund-raising on faith” ilk, and start listening to real doctors and disease-prevention professionals instead?  Because the cost of “staying the course” we are on now is far too high:

Funerals have replaced weddings as the main family ceremony. People struggle to buy medicine. They borrow to pay for funerals. Breadwinners die and families plunge into poverty and hunger. Many families are made up of orphans and grandparents.

Unprotected orphans are exploited sexually or economically, often by their relatives. A myth persists in parts of Africa that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS, a factor in the upsurge of rapes of babies and girls. No one can calculate the cost. Southern Africa can only try to endure the successive waves of infection, illness and death.

Magical thinking and shame doesn’t stop AIDS transmission. Isn’t it time we started emphasizing the things that do?  Because the true immorality is losing lives that could have been saved.  How about we discuss that in our public political lives for a change?

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com