Bush profusely praised Ugandan President Museveni, when he stopped by on his tour through Africa, on the AIDS prevention policies Museveni has championed:
President Bush wrote:
[Y]ou have been a world leader - not just a leader on the continent of Africa, but a world leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. You have shown the world what is possible in terms of reducing infection rates. You have been honest and open about the AIDS pandemic, and therefore have led your people to seek prevention and treatment and help and love.
And so, Mr. President, we come to herald your leadership and to assure you and to assure the people of Uganda that when it comes to the struggle against hopelessness and poverty and disease that you've got a friend in the United States.
(See the transcript of the statements of the two presidents
This praise might come as a bit of a surprise to those who know how ardently Ugandan kids are informed about sex, and the use of condoms in particular, as part of the state's anti-AIDS campaign:
Washington Post wrote:
Scrambling around the room wearing a puffy strawberry- and cream-colored dress, 7-year-old Florence Nampiuja plops into a seat, swings her thin legs beneath her and explains how to protect against unsafe sex. She uses her tiny hands to show how to use a condom. She hums a song about how to stop sugar daddies from persuading her to have sex.
[..] Condoms are stocked in the restrooms of popular restaurants and bars every night. In the lusty personal ads published every Friday in the popular weekend tabloid, the Red Pepper, a person's HIV-negative status and acceptance of condom use are advertised along with looks, height and job status.
(From an interesting article in the Washington Post
on Uganda's AIDS-policies)
One has to wonder if Bush is now ready to champion the same kind of open policy on sex education and condoms back home?
Still, there's another side of the story, too. For in its massive public campaign, Ugandan authorities have hammered home about the "ABC" of sex: practice Abstinence, Be faithful, or use Condoms - and seem to have succeeded on all
three counts, turning conventional wisdoms about AIDS prevention upside down. The decline of infection rates, conservatives will point out, is as much to do with the A of abstinence as with the C of condoms:
Washington Times wrote:
In 1994, more than 60 percent of Ugandan boys ages 13-16 reported being sexually active, a number that dropped to about 15 percent in 1996 and 5 percent in 2001. Among girls, the shift was equally dramatic.
Most significantly, the number of men reporting two or more partners in a year dropped from more than 70 percent in 1989 to between 15 percent and 20 percent in 1995. The number of women reporting multiple partners dropped from 18 percent in 1989 to 2.5 percent by 2002.
Meanwhile, the use of condoms in high-risk groups rose to the highest level in Africa.
(From a Washington Times article
reproduced on the USAID website).
All in all an interesting story. The Ugandan model seems to offer something for everyone. While the Washington Post concludes that "when President Bush visits [..] the lush hills near the Entebbe airport Friday [..], he is likely to hear some opinions contrary to his own", the Washington Times piece turns it around: "[USAID Director Anne] Peterson says there has been reluctance to accept ABC by "liberals" in her bureau, but said they are being won over by the hard science. [..] "The historical approach to HIV has been little A, little B and big C [..] the core of Uganda's success story is big A, big B and little C"".
One thing is clear - far away from any conservative-liberal argument, the Ugandan model seems to work: "Uganda's AIDS and HIV infection rates have plummeted from 30 percent to 5 percent in slightly more than a decade." Perhaps it works because
it was devised far away from the exported debates of American politics: since "Uganda was considered a pariah nation at the time", its campaigns were designed "with almost no outside money or expertise".
What's your take on the story?