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Abstinence is emphasized instead of condoms in Uganda; HIV/AIDS-infection rates increase

The BBC is reporting in “US ‘harming’ Uganda’s Aids battle” that the United Nation’s special envoy on fighting AIDS, Stephen Lewis, said the United States’ emphasis on abstinence has caused a drop in condom use in Uganda:

Over the last eight to 10 months, there’s been a very significant decline in the use of condoms, significantly orchestrated by the policies of government. At the moment, the government of Uganda appears to be under the influence of the American policy through the presidential initiative of emphasising abstinence far and away over condoms.

Lewis claimed that the shift in emphasis has caused the condom supply in Uganda to plummet and the price to triple.

And statistics cited in The Economist‘s article “The war against AIDS and condoms” show that the HIV/AIDS infection rate in Uganda has increased since 2003. And many people there agree with Lewis—the reason for the uptick is that abstinence is being pushed at the expense of condoms use.

Yes, theoretically abstinence is more effective in preventing HIV/AIDS than using a condom. The reality of it, however, is that condom use is a lot easier to practice than abstinence. And when HIV/AIDS programs focus more on utopian goals than achievable ones, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates seem to increase.

(The Protector condoms the woman is holding in the BBC article were a social-marketing initiative of the Commercial Market Strategies project, a project on which I was the editor.)

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