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ECHOING SIMILAR THOUGHTS to the two authors of articles around 'abstinence' approaches to HIV prevention, we in the UK and throughout Europe have been working hard during the past twenty years to work with targeted communities in a 'sex-positive' way, with a focus on harm minimization approaches, and to deliver programs based on the reality of people's everyday lives.

An example of where we differ from the US is that here in the UK we have actively from the very early stages of the epidemic, promoted the use of needle exchange schemes and as a result have a very tow number of drug users with HIV in the UK, compared with the US.

A Dutch group recently came up with a different slogan to the ABC proposed by those that support abstinence-based approaches. Their ARC slogan was: "Accept our sexuality, Be realistic, give us Choices."

People from African communities make up half of the number of people with HIV in the UK. For the African women we work with here, they often have very few choices. They often acquire HIV from their husbands, whom they love but are unable to communicate with honestly around the risks of infidelity; they are unable to be open about HIV because of fear and stigma; and are often unable to convince male partners to use condoms.

Trying to deny" that people are sexual beings is often the feeling behind 'abstinence' approaches, often propagated by those who seek to deny their own sexual urges and fantasies. It's difficult for all of us to talk more openly and honestly about sex, trust and love, but it is the only logical way forward in tackling this complex pandemic.


Terrence Higgins Trust

London, UK

SOMEONE UNFAMILIAR WITH Rosemary Ruether's many publications and longstanding advocacy for GLBT liberation/rights might mistakenly conclude after reading her short essay ("Sexual Illiteracy," Summer 2003) that when she speaks of "good sexuality," she has in mind only heterosexuality. After all, male-female relationships are the exclusive frame of reference in her call for "a sexual ethic of responsible mutuality," even though she has written extensively elsewhere about how human intimacy is distorted by heterosexism as well as sexism, racism and other dynamics of injustice.

That said, as a theologian, sexuality educator and gay man, I applaud her courageous insistence that marriage is not the exclusive site for ethically principled "good sex," that acquiring sexual knowledge and skills is a lifelong project, that human intimacy is best structured on the basis of mutual respect and friendship, and that any ethic worth its salt will emphasize the sharing of pleasure and taking responsibility for maintaining health, including the prevention of unintended pregnancy.

Perhaps limited space kept her from making explicit another key purpose of moral education with respect to human sexualities: teaching people how to resist oppression, their own and other's. Faith communities need to be doing a far better job of equipping young people and adults to address the public as well as personal dimensions of these issues. On this score, the kind of plain speaking Rosemary Ruether offers about a Christian ethical eroticism is particularly instructive to those who need to hear the good news that the Christian mandate to seek justice necessarily includes an equally strong mandate to seek sexual justice.


Professor of Christian Ethics,

Bangor Theological Seminary

Bangor, ME
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Title Annotation:Letters
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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