Former U.S. surgeon general David Satcher has called for the United States to adopt the "Abstinence, Be Faithful, or Use Condoms" approach to HIV prevention that has proved successful in Africa. But he adds that such a policy should be expanded to "ABC+Hope" to address the sense of hopelessness he said often leads many people to engage in high-risk sexual behavior.
"We should not overlook the recent success of the 'ABC' approach, both in reducing the rate of AIDS in Africa and in producing agreement among policymakers with highly divergent views," Satcher said Monday at the opening of The Call to Action on Sexual Health: Science and Belief--Seeking Common Ground national conference on sexual health issues. "An 'ABC-plus-hope' policy for the United States could provide the basis for a common-ground approach through which people with divergent views can overcome political gridlock and address issues here at home ranging from HIV/AIDS to teenage pregnancies to age-appropriate sexuality education," he said.
Satcher said the "hope" component of HIV prevention efforts should include access to health services and teens-at-risk programs that build self-esteem and provide education and recreation activities to keep teens busy and productive. The "ABC" HIV prevention method is backed by the Bush administration for both domestic and international HIV prevention programs.
Satcher released a report, titled "Call to Action," in 2002 that found no evidence existed to show that abstinence education was effective in reducing HIV or STD transmission. However, the report did recommend the inclusion of abstinence messages as part of a comprehensive approach to sex education. He continues to promote open discussions about sex and sexuality to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STD infections.
"An open discussion of sexuality issues is important to promoting sexual health and responsibility," he said. "Regardless of sexual orientation or planned sexual behavior, human sexuality must be understood by all, including those committed to celibacy."