HIV/AIDS and Human Rights

Sample Letter for Your Legislators

Stop the Export of U.S.-Funded Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs

For the Senate:
The Honorable ___________
U.S. Senate
Washington D.C., 20510

For the House of Representatives:
The Honorable ___________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington D.C., 20515

Dear Senator ___________: (or Dear Congressman/Congresswoman:)
I am writing to urge you to oppose all U.S. funding for “abstinence until marriage” programs that withhold critical information about HIV prevention. The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act requires that at least 33 percent of international HIV-prevention funds support abstinence-until-marriage programs. These programs withhold information about safer sex, condoms, and the risks of HIV transmission within marital relationships —information that could save the lives of millions of young people in AIDS-affected countries throughout the world. I therefore urge you to support legislation that would redirect this spending toward proven interventions that guarantee young people complete information about HIV prevention, including the use of condoms.

Abstinence-only HIV/AIDS programs have been proven to be ineffective and potentially harmful. By withholding or distorting information about any method of HIV prevention other than sexual abstinence until marriage, they violate young people’s human right to complete and accurate information about HIV prevention. In a recent Human Rights Watch investigation in Uganda, abstinence-until-marriage programs were found to censor information about condoms and other matters related to sexual health, to mislead young people about the risks of HIV within marriage, and to blend HIV prevention messages with moralistic teachings about marriage and family life. These findings were consistent with previous investigations by Human Rights Watch and other organizations about the implementation of abstinence-only programs in the domestic United States.

HIV/AIDS has killed some 25 million people worldwide. The vast majority of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are caused by unprotected sex, with the largest percentage of new infections occurring among women and girls. Comprehensive HIV-prevention programs that combine abstinence messages with factual information about condoms and safer sex have proven to be more effective than those that preach “abstinence only.” As a leading donor to HIV/AIDS programs worldwide, the United States cannot afford to substitute unproven HIV-prevention strategies for those that have succeeded in reducing behaviors that put people at risk of HIV/AIDS.

Unfortunately, the United States has already begun to send abstinence-only programs around the world targeting their efforts at countries hardest hit by HIV/AIDS. In addition to opposing further funding for these programs, I urge you to request information from the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator in the U.S. State Department. Information should be made publicly available and include details concerning recipients of U.S. grants, activities they provide to young people, the current level of international funding for abstinence-only programs,

Yours sincerely,


U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Randall Tobias and Ugandan Primary Education Minister Geraldine Bitamazire discuss HIV/AIDS with Ugandan students, Dec. 5, 2003 (Photograph: Reuters).
U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Randall Tobias and Ugandan Primary Education Minister Geraldine Bitamazire discuss HIV/AIDS with Ugandan students, Dec. 5, 2003 (Photograph: Reuters).

Get Informed
Facts at a Glance

Full Report: The Less They Know, the Better—Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda

Press Release

The U.S. Example

More on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights
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What You Can Do

Write to Your Legislator

Write to President Bush and Ambassador Tobias
In Images
Pages from Ugandan Textbooks
Human Rights Watch Researcher Tony Tate on U.S.-Funded, Abstinence-Only, HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda
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