Crushing news out of Uganda last week. The Bush administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May 18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005. And despite this chilling wake-up call, Bush has empowered Christian right activists to continue to push their abstinence-only agenda at a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to begin next week. According to a State Department email...the official U.S. delegation is stacked with some of the very people who contributed to the debacle in Uganda.
This is an absolutely unnecessary and avoidable tragedy. When they were promoting condom use, the rate of HIV infections had been going down. It's quite possible that the $1 billion wasted on this program actually increased the rate higher than it would have gone had no programs been in place.
It's clear that, at least with regard to fighting AIDS in poorer parts of the world, abstinence programs simply don't work. Let's exercise prudence rather than prudery and do the truly moral thing: saving lives from the horror of AIDS is far more valuable than placating the regressive prejudices of mouth-breathing Christian radicals.