Uganda Winning the Battle Against HIV/AIDS — Using Abstinence SARAH TRAFFORD

3 12 2013

Uganda Winning the Battle Against HIV/AIDS — Using Abstinence SARAH TRAFFORD

Uganda Winning the Battle Against AIDS — Using Abstinence
SARAH TRAFFORD
Uganda may be on its way to wiping out AIDS by using the Biblical values of chastity and fidelity, a new Harvard University study finds. According to the study, abstinence education has shown significant effectiveness in reducing AIDS in Uganda, with the HIV infection rate dropping 50 percent

The east African nation is making a big impact with the revelation that the AIDS epidemic can be curbed. Riddled with HIV infections since the 1970s, Uganda has found miraculous success by using abstinence as its prevention strategy. Promotion of abstinence through billboards, radio programs and school sex education curricula has resulted in a slow and steady drop in HIV infection rates, as well as new attitudes about conquering AIDS in Uganda.
“Uganda is one of the countries that attach great importance on promoting abstinence among our youth,” said Ahmed Ssenyomo, minister counselor at the Ugandan Embassy, in a speech to the African American Youth Conference on Abstinence.

When the program started in the late 1980s, the number of pregnant women infected with HIV was 21.2 percent. By 2001, the number was 6.2 percent. The Harvard study also reported Ugandan adults are not having as much risky sex: of women 15 and older, those reporting many sexual partners dropped from 18.4 percent in 1989 to 2.5 percent in 2000.

The emphasis on abstinence in Uganda’s program is unique. In other nations with high HIV infections, such as Zimbabwe and Botswana, condoms have been promoted as the answer to ending the AIDS crisis. In Botswana, 38 percent of pregnant women were HIV positive last year, contrasted with 6.2 percent of Ugandan women.

Much of the program’s success is due to the nation’s willingness to look beyond the sexual revolution to the past.

“What we’re seeing in parts of Africa is communities responding to the epidemic by saying, ‘Let’s see what’s in our culture — how can we deal with this with what we had in the past?’ ” Susan Leclerc-Madlalas, a medical anthropologist at the University of Natal in South Africa, told the Associated Press. “What they had most of the time was a way of regulating sexuality.”

Many AIDS officials reject abstinence as a potential prevention strategy despite evidence that promotion of abstinence and fidelity have significantly reduced AIDS cases in Uganda over the past decade.

“Millions and millions of young people are having sexual relations,” said Paolo Teizeria, director of Brazil’s AIDS program, at the 14th International AIDS Conference. “We cannot talk about abstinence. It’s not real.”

Abstinence is often dismissed as a potential prevention method. Condom promotion and “safe-sex” initiatives have long been thought to be the answer to stopping the spread of HIV: Instead of encouraging people to curb their libidos, these initiatives have tried to provide “safer” ways of exercising them. However, in many African nations condoms aren’t looked upon kindly: there are a variety of urban legends that circulate in some regions that condoms are either ethnic cleansing tools or actually spread HIV themselves. (During the Cold War, the Soviet KGB spread “disinformation” that the United States created the AIDS virus to kill off Africans.)

“Ugandans really never took to condoms,” Dr. Vinand Nantulya, an infectious disease advisor to Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, told The New Republic.

The abstinence initiative in Uganda goes far beyond those who are already having sex — it starts with the education and promotion of an abstinence program for youth called “True Love Waits.” Thirty thousand Ugandan youth are currently involved with the program. Launched in Uganda in 1994, True Love Waits focuses on abstinence until marriage as a way to prevent all sorts of adverse consequences associated with extra-marital sexual activity.

“Encouraging marriage, monogamy or abstinence, delaying the onset of sexual activity, discouraging promiscuity and casual sex, reducing the supply and demand of illegal drugs or providing treatment to drug addicts … are the absolute most effective approaches to reducing the risk of HIV,” Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) and six other members of the U.S. Committee on Government Reform said in a letter to the United Nations.

The United States and other countries have yet to embrace abstinence promotion as a mode of AIDS prevention. The United Nations recently predicted that AIDS will wipe out half the population in some African countries. In Uganda, the proverbial sun is starting to shine from the rain cloud of AIDS deaths — and it’s looking brighter.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Sarah Trafford. “Uganda Winning the Battle Against AIDS — Using Abstinence.” Culture and Family Institute (July, 2002).

This article reprinted with permission from Culture and Family Institute. Culture and Family Institute is an affiliate of Concerned Women for America 1015 Fifteenth St. N.W., Suite 1102 Washington, D.C. 20005 Phone: (202) 289-7117 Fax: (202) 488-0806 E-mail: mail@cultureandfamily.org

THE AUTHOR

Sarah Trafford is an intern for the Culture & Family Institute of CWA and a Political Science major at The College Of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.

Copyright Culture and Family Institute

 





Condom Fails Sub-Saharan Africa: HIV/AIDS On The Rise

3 12 2013

Condom Fails Sub-Saharan Africa: HIV/AIDS On The Rise

Sub-Saharan Africa has two-thirds of the world’s HIV/AIDS cases. So you would think that Western journalists and politicians might condescend to ask us what we think about how to fight AIDS. But they haven’t. A pity, because they would have found that many of us support Pope Benedict XVI’s scepticism about the effectiveness of distributing condoms.

In 2009, the Lancet, a leading British medical journal which regularly pontificates about public health, slammed the Pope for making “a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people”. I wonder if the editor of The Lancet has ever visited rural areas of Nigeria or South Africa. If he did, he would begin to see why fighting AIDS with condoms is like extinguishing a fire with petrol.

First of all, many rural Africans are illiterate and proper use of condoms cannot be relied upon. In any case, many men think that it compromises sexual pleasure. “Would you eat sweets with a wrapper on?” is a common objection.

Secondly, social organisation in rural Africa is quite unlike sedate suburban life in Sussex, or wherever the editor of The Lancet lives. In villages here there is often a low standard of moral behaviour. Men don’t get married but they do want children, so using condoms does not even come into their minds. They sleep with whomever they like until they are very old and need someone to cook for them. A man might be sleeping with six different women in a year. And the women often don’t mind whether a man will marry them or not.

Day to day life is unlike the West. The huts are open and at night there is no electricity to supply light. Anything can happen. Thus rape of children as young as six is not uncommon. As most of these go unreported, the aggressors go scot-free. Even when the rapist is known, nothing much is done.

In South Africa, which has some of the highest rates of AIDS in the continent, researchers claim that half a million women are raped each year. Journalist speak of a “rape epidemic”. More than a quarter of all the females can expect to be raped at least once in their life, even in infancy. Half of the victims are under 18. It is hard to get hard figures, because most attacks go unreported. Tell me, how do you persuade a rapist to use condoms?

If condoms are so effective why is HIV still on the increase in Africa? One factor is certainly that people with condoms are emboldened to take more risks. Part of the counselling of people living with AIDS is “try not to spread it” — in a word, to live abstinence. But before they got the disease they were told “hey, no need to curtail your libido, just use condoms.” If personal control is not achieved before contracting HIV/AIDS it is often impossible afterwards. I overhead a chilling conversation once of a boy planning to sleep with a girl. “What if she has AIDS?” his friend asked. “Well then, I have seven years to live and I will enjoy myself to the limit,” he replied.

There are even more basic obstacles. Many villagers are unschooled and know little about modern science. Poisoning or sorcery is suspected when people fall ill. Western medicine is often seen as a last resort after traditional healers have failed. So doctors find it difficult to explain to HIV/AIDS patients the cause of their illness. It is not uncommon for them to go to their graves with the stubborn belief that an enemy cast a spell on them. The more serious and “treatment defying” an illness is, the more it confirms the malignant power of the sorcerer.
Villages are often cut off from distribution networks for goods and services because of difficult terrain. You can’t jump into your car and make a midnight trip to the pharmacist to buy a packet of condoms. In fact, you might be cut off from condom suppliers for weeks at a time. One doctor related to me a typical example. A youth in a village explained why he did not use condoms with his girl: “well, I had to convince and convince, and when she finally said yes, I could not risk going outside to buy condoms since she might change her mind before I came back.”

And people are not just careless, they are ashamed. Here’s another story from the same doctor. A woman came to him for an antenatal check of her second child (the first was a year old). She discovered that she was HIV positive. She was terrified of what her husband would do to her. The doctors called the husband and tried to break the news gently. To their amazement he told them that he was HIV positive and had been on treatment for over a year — without telling his wife. Why? “Well, someone gave it to me,” he said. Many infected people deliberately spread the disease, thinking; “I can’t be the only one. Since someone gave me the disease, I will give it to someone else.”

Plus, there are other means of transmission of AIDS which are unfamiliar in the West. One treatment you will not find in Cleveland is medical scarification. A traditional healer in a village will make an incision over the affected area to discharge fluid or blood. The healer uses the same implement to cut different people, leading to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infections. Traditional scarification for aesthetic or cultural reasons also exists and is no more hygienic.

It is true that in rural Africa HIV/AIDS spreads mainly through heterosexual relationships. But it is also transmitted by intravenous drug users. African villagers prefer injected drugs to tablets because, so they think, it is better value for money. So the local chemists (who are seldom trained pharmacists) oblige them. Sometimes they save money by reusing syringes and not swabbing the skin with disinfectant. The resulting infections sometimes create huge abscesses.

The Pan African Health foundation (PAHF), a non -profit HIV/AIDS prevention charity, is building a factory in Nigeria with a capacity of 160 million syringes a year. This will supply 20 percent of Nigeria’s needs and, when fully operational, most of sub-Saharan Africa. Inexplicably, American and British foreign aid agencies which doled out lavish donations for condoms to fight HIV/AIDS were not interested in supporting the foundation. The local state government finally gave some funding.

UNAIDS, the international agency which coordinates research and treatment for AIDS around the world, is a strong supporter of condoms. Its official position is that: “The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

Note the stress on the word “technology”. The condom is just a technology. And technology is not much good for changing behaviour.

The West is addicted to technology as a substitute for free will and moral effort. If you eat too much, you get gastric banding surgery. If you’re depressed, you take Prozac. If you’re a smoker, you wear nicotine patches. Here in Africa, this fantasy has collided with the reality of the AIDS crisis. There is no technology to tame sexual desire. There is only self-restraint and faithfulness to your partner. These will eventually rein in AIDS; condoms won’t.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba





The Next big thing in Africa By Chinwuba Iyizoba

20 04 2013

The Next big thing in Africa

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

On Ash Wednesday, the 36th session of IFAD’s Governing Council convened in Rome with a focus on the power of partnerships to reduce rural poverty and ensure food security worldwide and Africa was once again on the agenda. In an address delivered by Pope Benedict XVI to the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)Mr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, one can see that Africa’s food problem is the Pope’s great concern. The Holy Father thanked the Organization for the constant attention given to Africa and the supporting projects of “rural credit” with which IFAD aims to endow small farmers with modest but essential financial resources to empower them.

In Africa, big farms are often divided amongst children as inheritance, sometimes leaving each a patch, large enough to grow a handful of corn. Collectivizing these small farms into large holders could breed trouble, unless the government intervenes. But many African governments do not invest in agriculture. Thus small holder farms represent 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa and contribute up to 90 per cent of production in some countries. At the meetings in the Ethiopian capital last year, the IFAD President said that smallholder farmers are at the centre of any plan for post-2015 and a key challenge IFAD is helping build the capacity of smallholder farmers and their organizations so that they can become viable rural businesses, particularly for women and young people who shoulder the future of African smallholder farming.

In Nigeria, at least, the Holy father’s concerns are already being addressed, thanks to the Harambe initiative, a non-profit organization aimed at helping hardworking and ambitious youths to see opportunities in farming, train them to start smallholder farms and support already existing small holder farms in their local community. According to 25 years old Tola Sunmonu, the President of Harambe Nigeria and graduate of Stanford University, California, “We intend to provide the necessary information to get young people to start thinking about agriculture as a lucrative career. Rebuilding of the agriculture sector is one of the smartest strategies towards rebuilding the Nigerian economy. We believe that the sector is extremely undervalued and there are a lot of opportunities available, especially for hardworking and ambitious youth.”

But this is not an easy task considering that young people in Africa are often averse to farming as observed by Ezekwesili Oby, Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa Region. “Africans do not want to be the farmers their grandparents were: hoe in hand, tilling the soil in scorching sun all year round, harvesting barely enough to feed, shelter and house their families,” she said, “making the sector more attractive to the African youth – seven-to-ten million of whom join the labor force each year – must entail modernizing agriculture, raising productivity, boosting incomes, and expanding links to export markets.”

Before 1970, many Nigerians were farmers, and Agriculture contributed more than 75 percent of export earnings. Northern Nigeria, though the least educated at that time was in the fore front of agriculture with gigantic ground-nut pyramids dotting the skyline. By the mid-1990s, agriculture’s share of exports had declined to less than 5 percent, due to the neglect. In the North, rolling pastures have gave way to arid fields, and swathes of Muslims youths took up Islamic militancy, hundreds thrive on government contract and thousands of families rely on state governments food hand-out.

“It is essential to provide farmers with solid formation, constant updating and technical assistance in their activity, as well as support for initiatives to build associations and cooperatives capable of proposing effective models of production…some peoples could greatly improve upon the conditions of their life if they would change over from antiquated methods of farming to the new tech,” the holy father said.

But the directors of Harambe initiative has already heeded the Holy father logic by integrating farming with the IT industry, a mix that has the potential of attracting young people by getting rid of the stigma that often associates farmers with the illiterate. It has a website called the Farmland which provides resources that give young people access to the skills, network and capital that they need to establish themselves in the sector. Harambe provide resources that give young people access to the skills, network and capital that they need to establish themselves in the sector in some cases. “Our main project is the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (HISARD),” says Tola. HISARD comprises a two-year scholarship program in which selected students engage in extensive training and research which they use to develop and implement innovative solutions to the agricultural problems facing the small holders farms in local communities.

“If you ask me what the next ‘big thing’ in Africa will be, I’d say without hesitation agriculture and agri-business,” Ezekwesili said at an investor forum organized by Africa investor, in 2010. But Government yet still needs to do its part. It needs to guarantee land rights for farmers, ensuring that large commercial farms – which are bound to employ fewer people — co-exist with the millions of smallholder farms.”

According to Ezekwesili, smallholder farmers must gain access, not only to more productive seeds and other farm inputs, but also to finance, irrigation, research and technology. Equally important are land reforms, the building and maintenance of adequate infrastructure (farm- to-market roads, for example), and the implementation of effective post harvest marketing strategies.

Even in Rwanda, the Holy Father’s logic resonates. Addressing the 35th session of the Governing Council, last year, Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda said, “If the world is to meet the twin objectives of feeding the growing population and protecting the environment we will have to do what we know works…and that is targeted support and investment in smallholder farming to raise agricultural productivity, contribute to food security and reduce poverty, while protecting our planet.” Using Rwanda’s experience, Kagame said that the world’s growing population can get enough food only if smallholder farmers have access to basic modern farming tools including fertilizers, improved seeds and professional advices. What is clear is that in the absence of strong government like Rwanda, non government organization like Harambe might be the only hope of other African countries.

Finally, though the United Nations Food Agency, distributes food vouchers worth millions of dollar to Africans every year, the Holy Fathers vision, like axiom that says “give a child fish, he eats for a day, teach him to fish, he eats for life”, offers a more enduring solution to Africa’s food problems.

Chinwuba Iyizoba is an Engineer. He is also the author of “ After the Juju Man

 








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