Condom Restrictions Cost Lives

(New York, November 30, 2004) - Needless restrictions on condoms and
HIV/AIDS information are undermining the global fight against the
epidemic, Human Rights Watch charged today in a paper
<> released today on
World AIDS Day. Condoms remain the single most effective device against
sexually transmitted HIV, yet they face government-imposed constraints
in numerous countries across the globe.

The 30-page briefing paper
<> documents censorship
of information about condoms in government-funded programs, myths about
condoms spread by religious leaders, and restrictions on condoms in
numerous countries. In some places, police confiscate condoms from AIDS
outreach workers and use them as evidence of illegal prostitution or

"Governments should be promoting condom use, not treating condoms like
contraband," said Jonathan Cohen, a researcher with Human Rights Watch's
HIV/AIDS Program. "The clear result of restricting access to condoms
will be more lives lost to AIDS."

The World Health Organization and other international health agencies
share the broad consensus that condoms used correctly are highly
effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV. While condoms
are clearly not a complete solution to HIV/AIDS, international agencies
agree that providing complete and accurate information about the proper
use of condoms to reduce the risk of HIV transmission is an essential
part of the limited anti-HIV arsenal.

But government-sponsored programs of many countries - including India,
Nigeria, Peru and the United States - restrict access to these anti-HIV
tools. In 2003, less than half of all people worldwide at risk of sexual
transmission of HIV had access to condoms. Even fewer had access to
basic HIV/AIDS education. Where school-based HIV/AIDS programs exist,
they often conceal information about condoms for fear of promoting
promiscuity or birth control.

The United States, the world's leading donor to HIV/AIDS programs,
continues to ramp up its support for "abstinence until marriage"
HIV-prevention programs that stress condoms' very low failure rate,
rather than their effectivenes