July 9, 2003
Uganda has waged a successful fight to reduce its HIV/AIDS infection rate by enlisting the entire population in a frank discussion about sex. Their HIV-fighting mantra is referred to as ABC: abstain, be faithful or use a condom. Condom use is heavily promoted, putting the Ugandans at odds with the Bush administration, which pushes abstinence and has directed about one-third of new AIDS prevention money for Africa to groups that advocate "abstinence-only before marriage" messages.
So when President Bush visits an AIDS clinic, the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) on Friday during his five-day trip to five African nations, he is likely to hear some opinions contrary to his own. "I won't mind telling Mr. Bush when he visits that young children need to know about condoms here," said Michael Bernard Etukoit, the manager of TASO. "It's too idealistic to say abstain when I serve 50,000 people for AIDS alone in my clinic."
The Straight Talk Foundation, a nongovernmental group that is one of the country's most successful promoters of fighting AIDS, discusses everything from masturbation to myths about virginity and the effects of poverty on sex. One of the common questions the foundation gets from women is what to do if men offer money or gifts to have sex without a condom. They also tell of men who say girls will grow a bone in their vagina if they do not have sex before they are 15.
American missionaries who work in Africa, however, tell villagers that condoms do not work and to simply wait to have sex until marriage. Stephen Wolcott, an American missionary who is the executive officer for the Ugandan branch of Africa Inland Missions, said "The only solution is abstinence." "To get people to actually stop the AIDS pandemic, the solution is to not have sex until marriage."