American Religious Fanatics As Bad As Pope For Spreading Aids In Africa

Writing to the Independent this morning, Beatrice Wear of ActionAid in Kampala, Uganda, said: “The Pope may be poised to rethink the Catholic Church’s stance on condoms, but of increasing importance are the views of the American evangelical right and their influence on US development money. Flying in the face of 20 years’ experience of what works, they are exporting to Africa an aggressive and highly moralistic HIV prevention approach based on abstinence and fidelity.”

“US Aids funding sounds impressive: $15bn over five years. But its prevention approach of restricting condom distribution to so-called ‘high risk’ groups such as commercial sex workers and truck drivers, ignores the reality of the African epidemic, which is young and female. It assumes African women possess a level of control over their lives and sexuality that they often do not.

“In Uganda, billboards that used to promote abstinence, fidelity and the use of condoms have disappeared. Eighty million condoms are locked in government warehouses. We see marches of virgins, and proposals for university scholarships for those who remain ‘untainted’. A wave of stigma has overtaken the country: people with HIV are defined as ‘loose’. Civil society, the backbone of any approach to defeat Aids, has become divided in the scramble for US grants.

“The inevitable outcome is a rise in infection rates. Uganda had reduced its prevalence rates from one in five in the early 1990s to one in 20 in 2005. But a recent survey shows a reversal in that trend, with the highest increases among the most vulnerable, including people in conflict-torn northern Uganda and poor urban women. The only way to fight Aids successfully is to put our reliance in evidence-based strategies, not faith-based, ideologically driven approaches.”