I was reading the local paper the other day, and saw a map of AIDS distribution. It was pretty striking. Sub-Saharan Africa: huge number of AIDS cases. 25,400,000. India and Southeast Asia: huge number of AIDS cases, growing rapidly. 7,100,000. And sitting there in the middle, the Muslim Middle East: 540,000 AIDS cases, growing slowly. And a large whack of those are supposedly from the sub-Saharan, non-Muslim portion of the Sudan.
This is the lowest incidence of AIDS in any comparably-sized part of the world. And with very little in the way of natural barriers to the disease's spread.
So what can make the difference?
One obvious possibility is that anti-AIDS education in the Muslim world doesn't even mention contraception--it's entirely abstinence-based. "In contrast to the case in Western countries, where youngesters are taught about safe sex, Dr. Khazaal [Dr. Zainab Khazaal, in charge of AIDS education for the UAE] said that in the UAE teenagers were discouraged from having premarital relationships in the first place."
The solution is so obvious, isn't it?
And these figures suggest that current sex education in North America must be actually helping AIDS spread, by falsely assuring students that they can safety have sex. "Safe sex," that's the slogan.
Of course, the abstinence programmes are stronger if they are backed up by the rest of society. Dr. Khazaal credits "strong moral and religious education programmes," and explains that "the religious teachings and the conservatism of the culture has prevented a fast spread of the disease." "We highlight abiding by our religious ...norms." (data and quotations from Gulf News, December 1, 2004. Their own source for AIDS figures is given as UNAIDS/WHO.)