Museveni beats a moral drum

Beating a moral drum he said the problem arose when people had sex before marriage or outside of marriage. However, he acknowledged that in Africa, many women contracted HIV precisely through being faithful to their male partners.

In Africa, women account for 58% of those who are infected with HIV.

Museveni, the only political head of state to attend the conference, said his country had reduced its HIV prevalence rate from 30 percent among certain sections of the population to six percent among adults in the general population largely through creative communication campaigns that exhorted young citizens to abstain from sex until married and for sexual partners to remain faithful to each other.

He said that condom distribution was not the ultimate solution. ‘€œCondoms may be alright,’€ he said, adding that those who advocated the use of condoms assumed that people were sober when they had sex. ‘€œBut many people are drunk when they have sex and the do not put on condoms,’€ he said.

Nontheless, he concluded that although condoms were not ‘€œoptimal’€, they were ‘€œbetter than dying’€.

He said Uganda currently spent $35 million on HIV/AIDS and was able to provide antiretroviral therapy to all 120 000 Ugandans who needed treatment.

‘€œThis is 10 percent of the almost 1,2 million people living with the virus, but the other 90 percent do not yet need the drugs,’€ he said, because their immune systems were still healthy enough to resist getting sick from opportunistic infections.

While Museveni praised the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar) for the money it had made available to his country, other speakers at yesterday’€™s discussions were less complimentary.

Dutch princess, Mabel van Oranje speaking on behalf of the Open Society Institute, said that while the Pepfar funds had been a welcome injection of resources into the struggle against HIV/AIDS, there was concern that it was to some extent ‘€œdriven by ideology rather than an assessment of needs on the ground’€.

She said that the Pepfar specified that one third of its funds were to be used to promote abstinence, but added that for women who were faithful to their husbands had no option to practice abstinence. Neither did young girls in South Africa ‘€“ a third of whom had their first sexual encounter against their wishes.

AIDS activists were also vocal in their criticism of President George W. Bush as well as the G8 group of nations for failing to come up with additional dollars for the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria.

At one stage in the afternoon they clogged the hallway of the convention centre blowing whistles and chanting ‘€œG8, we won’€™t wait, where’€™s the $12 billion?’€

Chairperson of the Global Fund Richard Feacham had earlier told journalists that just $1 billion had been pledged for Round Five of Global Fund grants for 2005 when $3,5 billion was the amount that was needed.

‘€œWe are talking to the United States and have requested $1,2 billion from the US,’€ said Feacham.

E-mail Sue Valentine


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