Abstinence, Fidelity Best Ways To Prevent Spread of HIV, Ugandan Ambassador to U.S. Writes in Letter to Editor
A recent study showing that sexual abstinence did not play a "significant" role in reducing the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Uganda is "misleading and dangerous" because it is "widely known" that the "principal reason" for the country's reduced HIV prevalence is the Ugandan government's campaign to encourage abstinence and faithfulness to one partner to prevent HIV transmission, Edith Ssempala, Ugandan ambassador to the United States, writes in a New York Times letter to the editor (Ssempala, New York Times, 3/14). The study, presented last month at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, showed that increased condom use and premature deaths from AIDS-related diseases might be playing more of a role in declining HIV prevalence in Uganda than abstinence and fidelity. Supporters of Uganda's "ABC" HIV prevention method -- which stands for abstinence, be faithful, use condoms -- have widely credited the approach with lowering the country's HIV prevalence from 30% of adults in the early 1990s to under 10% currently. However, the results of the unpublished study -- which was conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University and several Ugandan organizations -- contradict previous findings that attribute Uganda's declining HIV prevalence to initiatives promoting abstinence and faithfulness to one sexual partner (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/24). When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni initiated his campaign to encourage abstinence and fidelity, there was little money for HIV/AIDS education programs and condoms were "scarce" in the country, Ssempala says. In addition, Museveni understood that condoms "don't eliminate risk" of HIV transmission, Ssempala says, concluding that with some strains of HIV developing resistance to some antiretroviral drugs and with a vaccine or cure "not yet in sight," the "sure" prevention strategy should be abstinence and fidelity (New York Times, 3/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.