Successful HIV Program Ignored Because it Promotes Abstinence, Monogamy Instead of Condom Use, Columnist Says
An Ugandan HIV prevention program that calls for abstinence and monogamy could serve as "a kind of vaccine against HIV" if implemented elsewhere, but the program has not received much publicity because the condom "didn't initially play much of a role in" its success, nationally syndicated columnist Rich Lowry writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. The program, adopted in the mid-1980s by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is called ABC, which stands for "Abstain, Be Faithful or wear a Condom" -- with that order of emphasis, according to Lowry (Lowry, Washington Times, 12/8). The program focuses primarily on abstinence before marriage and fidelity inside of marriage and has "little to do" with condoms. However, the approach has paid off: Fewer Ugandan women ages 15 and older report having multiple sex partners overall, down to 2.5% in 2000 compared to 18.4% in 1989, and men have recorded "[s]imilar but smaller" declines in multiple sex partners. In addition, the percentage of pregnant women testing positive for HIV at antenatal clinics declined from 21.2% in 1991 to 6.2% in 2001 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/23). Further, Lowry cites USAID statistics that found that Uganda's HIV prevalence "peaked at around 15% in 1991" and fell to 5% by 2001, "the biggest drop in HIV prevalence in the world." However, according to Lowry, AIDS advocates are not "shouting from the rooftops" and "demanding" that international organizations implement the ABC program elsewhere, because "[to] them, urging people not to have sex almost constitutes a human rights violation." Although Lowry acknowledges that condom use among high-risk groups has "consolidated Uganda's gains," he concludes, "[T]he AIDS establishment will never act on Uganda's central lesson until it gives up its total devotion to the idea of judgment-free sexual self-expression" (Washington Times, 12/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.