Global Politics

Ghana's report card on abstinence programs

Here at this secondary school, these classmates talk together. This 18 year old cites abstinence as the best way to avoid HIV. She's an HIV educator at the school, trained by an NGO to talk to other students about HIV transmission and prevention. The project called Windows of Hope was funded by the US Agency for International Development. This is one of 250 schools across Ghana that takes place in Windows of Hope. This official talks about how abstinence is the main idea behind the group. USAID has also funded ad campaigns that feature abstinence. There's no comprehensive data on how well abstinence programs here are working at preventing HIV transmission, still this official says the program was a success. An internal investigation found the program reversed students' misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and increased their awareness of the virus. While abstinence was the main feature of the program, many students wanted to know more and wanted info on condoms. That's because many students are already sexually active. This official says US funding restrictions limited what info he could offer students; he says USAID prohibited handing out leaflets about condoms. That limitation frustrates officials coordinating AIDS prevention projects in Ghana. This official hopes Congress will lift the condom restrictions and be more realistic. For its part, USAID in Ghana says the agency has an obligation to providing Ghana's youth with more knowledge about safer sex. But the agency says its primary concern is towards addressing higher risk groups such as sex workers and HIV in young men. This official says that focus may be short sighted. He says he applauds the Bush administration's efforts to provide anti retro virals but he would like to see a broader approach to preventing AIDS so more people don't get infected in the first place.