Brazil has decided to turn down a US offer of $40 million for AIDS programs because the money comes with a stupid ideological string: the aid is contingent upon Brazil condemning prostitution. So, Brazil decided to go with their empirically proven program of handing out condoms to prostitutes, and give up the $40 million. All I can say is, “Bravo!”
Experts here and abroad say the disagreement over how to deal with prostitution is symptomatic of a larger conflict between Brazil and the United States over AIDS policy. Brazil, which spends more than $400 million annually on what is regarded as the most successful AIDS program in the developing world, is taking a pragmatic approach in combating the global epidemic, the experts say, while the United States, increasingly, is not.
“It’s not as if you’re choosing between two neutral policy programs,” said Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Brazil has good data to show that their approach works, and to ask them to change that, even if they get the additional money, to one for which there is no evidence, just because of moral squeamishness in the United States, is an extraordinary position to take.”
“Obviously abstinence is the safest way to avoid AIDS,” Dr. [Pedro] Chequer [, director of the Brazilian government's AIDS program,] said. “But it’s not viable in an operational sense unless you are proposing that mankind be castrated or genetically altered, and then you would end up with something that is not human but something else altogether.”
“If we increasingly focus the prevention of AIDS along these lines, we are generating carnage, a slaughter,” he said. “It's not a realistic vision, and the epidemic is going to grow larger and larger.”