New Kenyan President Declares ‘Total War on AIDS,’ Urges Religious Leaders To Support ‘ABC’ Prevention Model
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has declared a "total war on AIDS" in his country, where an estimated 500 to 700 people die daily from AIDS-related causes, the Washington Post reports. The country has yet to identify an "effective strategy for preventing the disease or for treating those who contract it," and AIDS "continues to kill entire villages, to wipe out generations," according to the Post. In order to address the epidemic, Kibaki has already committed the government to subsidizing the treatment of 40,000 HIV/AIDS patients and "abandoned" former President Daniel arap Moi's "self described 'shy' policy about condom use," the Post reports. Kibaki has said he supports condom use and the promotion of abstinence until marriage, adding that if the AIDS problem is not addressed "none of his government's other programs will matter," according to the Post (Wax, Washington Post, 5/21). Earlier this month, U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis met with Kibaki and lauded his "commitment to fighting the disease and educating the country's youth." He also praised the president for his decision to eliminate primary school fees, which has allowed millions of children affected by HIV/AIDS to attend school, and he added that similar efforts should be launched across Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6). In addition, Kibaki has asked church leaders to spend the first 15 minutes of every Sunday sermon discussing the "ABC" model of HIV/AIDS prevention, the Post reports (Washington Post, 5/21). The "ABC" -- abstain, be faithful, use condoms -- prevention method has been successful in lowering the AIDS prevalence rate in neighboring Uganda (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6). HIV/AIDS advocates say that they hope Kibaki continues to explore strategies that "diverg[e] sharply from the practice of many African governments to keep silent about condom use and AIDS," according to the Post. Melaku Kifle, outgoing general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, said, "Kibaki is trying to take a stand by pushing the ABC policy. What will happen? Now one really knows. [But] Kibaki's leadership in the coming years will be critical" (Washington Post, 5/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.