Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Condoms in Africa

U.S. Blamed for Condom Shortage in Fighting AIDS in Uganda - New York Times:
A top United Nations official and a number of advocacy groups for AIDS patients charged yesterday that Bush administration policy had led to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, increasing the risk of infection for many people, particularly married women and adolescents.

In a telephone conference with reporters, the critics said that Uganda needed 120 to 150 million condoms a year and that this year's supply of fewer than 30 million condoms, distributed at health clinics, had been exhausted. Privately purchased condoms have more than tripled in price in Uganda, to 54 cents for a package of three, from 16 cents, making them unaffordable for many Ugandans, the critics said.

Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, D.C., said that "there has been a dangerous and profound shift in U.S. donor policy from comprehensive prevention, education and provision of condoms to focus on abstinence only." The shift denies information and technologies to people at greatest risk of H.I.V., she said.

Condoms have become difficult to find in cities, even for a price, and are unavailable in many rural areas, the critics said, and some men have begun using garbage bags as condom substitutes to prevent H.I.V. infection.

Ambassador Stephen Lewis, the United Nations secretary general's special envoy for H.I.V./AIDS in Africa since 2001, and the former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, said that "there is no question that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by Pepfar and by the extreme policies that the administration in the United States is now pursuing."
AIDS is a preventable disease. We've known that for a couple decades now. Uganda is one of the few success stories in Africa, in large part because they were so successful at educating the public about the nature of the risk and how to control the spread of HIV through a program called ABC: abstinence, be faithful, and condoms. If men are producing makeshift condoms, they've learned the lesson.

For pennies, we can make sure the condoms are there. Those pennies will save lives, not just the lives of the couple, but their children and their future partners. Millions of dollars worth of medicine will be saved.

It's almost like a theme is developing here about shortsightedness.

But this isn't about short-sight. The Bushies know what they're doing, and they'd rather promote their failed abstinence plan over successful plans. Who cares about lives when abstract principle is at stake?