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Commentary & Opinion
Solution to HIV/AIDS Epidemic Is to Provide "Information" to People, Commentary Says

November 26, 2007

CDC, UNAIDS, USAID and a "growing number" of African governments have acknowledged that "long-term, overlapping" sexual relationships are "major drivers" of the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and other regions of the world, but "this awareness in dawning awfully late," Helen Epstein -- author of the book "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West and the Fight Against AIDS" -- writes in a Washington Post commentary.

According to Epstein, Christopher Hudson, a researcher at a London clinic in the 1990s, helped develop the theory that sexual networks help facilitate the spread of sexually transmitted infections. The theory that long-term overlapping partnerships could create a "superhighway" for HIV was shown mathematically in 1997 by Martina Morris, a sociology professor at the University of Washington, Epstein writes. Yet, until recently, the "policy and program documents of just about every public health agency working on AIDS prevention in Africa were silent" on overlapping partners and instead emphasized approaches that "make sense" in other parts of the world, such as the dangers of commercial sex work and "casual" sex, according to Epstein.

A "great many people" still do not know about the "long-term overlapping partnerships theory," Epstein writes, adding, "Information about the perils of concurrent partners won't solve the AIDS crisis on its own, but it could at least help people spot where the risks are coming from" (Epstein, Washington Post, 11/25).

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