AIDS envoy demands US give more condoms
By Lawrence Altman
The US Government’s emphasis on abstinence programs to prevent AIDS is hobbling Africa’s battle against the pandemic by playing down the role of condoms, a top United Nations official has charged.
The UN secretary-general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, said “Christian ideology” was driving the US AIDS assistance program with disastrous results such as a shortage of condoms in Uganda.
The charges were disputed by the Ugandan Government and an official of President George Bush’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, known as PEPFAR. The plan emphasises a policy known as ABC, which stands for abstinence, be faithful, and use condoms.
The dispute comes less than a week after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a public-private partnership based in Geneva, suspended $US201 million ($267 million) in grants to Uganda because of government mismanagement.
According to the Bush Administration’s critics, Uganda needs at least 120 million condoms a year but that this year’s supply of fewer than 30 million condoms, to be distributed at health clinics, had been exhausted. Privately purchased condoms had more than tripled in price, making them unaffordable for many Ugandans, the critics said.
AdvertisementCondoms have become difficult to find in cities, even for a price, and are unavailable in many rural areas, the critics said, and some men have begun using garbage bags as condom substitutes to prevent HIV infection.
But Uganda’s state minister for health, Mike Mukula, told The Daily Monitor newspaper in Kampala the country had enough condoms. “We just procured 65 million condoms about two months ago and another 80 million is on the way,” he said.
The country used about 5 million condoms a month and there was no cause for concern about a shortage, he said.
Mr Mukula challenged the claims that garbage bags were being used as substitutes, inviting critics to accompany him and prove their charges.
Mr Lewis, the former Canadian ambassador to the UN who has been the Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa since 2001, said the emphasis on abstinence in the Bush Administration’s program, even more than the issue of condom distribution, was a “distortion of the preventive apparatus and is resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred”.
But Dr Mark Dybul, the deputy US global AIDS co-ordinator and chief medical officer, said the Bush Administration had supported the purchase of 15 million to 20 million condoms which were in a warehouse in Uganda awaiting further testing “to tide them over” if a shortage arose.
“The Ugandans know how to handle their epidemic” and “developed the ABC program as their response to the epidemic”, he said.
G.W.Bush has been a alcoholic, a habitual drug user, draft dodger, a liar, a whore to the oil industry, a bad father (look at the behaviour of his two daughters) a wife beater and a born again christian.
And you wonder why the rest of the world can’t take Bush seriously