Bush's AIDS plan is all about the ABCs
By Sam Singson
statistics on AIDS in Africa paint a stark picture. According to UNAIDS,
a United Nations umbrella group that includes five UN agencies, the
World Bank and the World Health Organization, 34.3 million people in
the world have died from AIDS - 3.8 million of them children under the
age of 15 - and 13.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, 12.1
million of them in Africa.
In spite of the grim statistics, there have been some notable successes
in battling AIDS in the troubled continent. Through an extensive public-awareness
campaign, the Ugandan government, for example, has managed to reduce
the soaring HIV infection rate from 40 per cent in 1991 to just under
six per cent. Compare this figure to the overall infection rate of nine
per cent in sub-Saharan Africa or to Botswana, the nation hit hardest
by AIDS, with an estimated 38 per cent of citizens between the ages
of 15 and 49 that are infected with the virus, and the Ugandan experience
is even more impressive.
The latest Ugandan awareness campaign promotes the "ABCD" of HIV -
Abstain, Be faithful to your partner, use Condoms or Die. Studies are
increasingly revealing the extent of the success of the ABC campaign.
Along with the dramatic decline of new infections, according to the
Demographic and Health Survey, 95 per cent of all Ugandans age 15 to
49 now report practising monogamy or abstinence, the average age of
first sexual contact has been raised and the average number of sexual
partners has been reduced.
On a previous trip to Washington, President Yoweri Museveni told drug
company executives, "We made it our highest priority to convince our
people to return to their traditional values of chastity and faithfulness
or, failing that, to use condoms. The alternative was decimation."
Uganda's campaign has become the model for President George W. Bush's
$15 billion, five-year AIDS plan. On a stop to Uganda this summer during
a five-day, five-nation African tour, Bush heaped praise on Museveni
for his country's work and success in the fight against AIDS, calling
the ABC initiative "visionary." During a speech at an AIDS clinic, Bush
declared, "You have shown the world what is possible in terms of reducing
Prior to the presidential visit to Uganda, Bush has shown strong support
for abstinence-based programs. Late last year, the US Agency for International
Development sent a communique to its offices around the world, informing
them that abstinence and fidelity programs would henceforth be part
of America's AIDS-fighting strategy in the Third World. Bush's State
of the Union Address in January called for an aggressive public health
and behaviour modification strategy to tackle the moral and physical
implications that AIDS poses.
At a briefing in Pretoria in July, Secretary of State Colin Powell
told reporters that whatever money Congress appropriates for Mr. Bush's
AIDS proposal goes for "worthwhile programs that deal with education."
Powell further stressed that the administration is "only going to be
investing in those programs that will have a demonstrated payoff and
we can see results."