By Patrick B. Craine
ANCASTER, Ontario, September 21, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Redeemer University-College (RUC), an undergraduate liberal arts college founded by the Christian Reformed denomination, is scheduled to host a lecture in January by Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
RUC's Activities and Orientation Coordinator Micah van Dijk, who is helping to plan the event along with the university's social justice club, admitted in LifeSiteNews' first interview that he did not know much about Lewis' background, and was open to learning more, but in a second interview, he insisted that the lecture would be proceeding.
Van Dijk acknowledged that some of Lewis' views are incompatible with Redeemer's mission, but insisted that the event will create the opportunity for “dialogue.” He said, further, that it would be inappropriate for RUC to distance themselves from Lewis' views in their advertising because they would then be welcoming a guest into a hostile environment.
According to van Dijk, learning from Lewis about his approach to the AIDS crisis will give students the opportunity to wrestle with his views in terms of Christian teaching. The school has decided to schedule a panel discussion following Lewis' lecture, but this has not yet been indicated in the web advertisement.
Lewis has long been a proponent of abortion, even leading up to its legalization in the 1969 Omnibus Bill. As leader of the Ontario NDP from 1970 to 1978, he influenced that party's strong support for abortion rights. At the infamous Cairo conference on population and development in 1994, further, Lewis spoke out against the Catholic Church, which had objected to the conference's support of abortion and contraception, calling the Vatican's statements “torrents of thinly veiled misogyny.” From 1995 to 1999, Lewis served as Deputy Director of UNICEF, which lost the support of the Vatican in 1996 because of its promotion of abortion and contraception.
Lewis, chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, is to speak at RUC about his work in the fight against AIDS. A survey of Lewis' work in this area, however, reveals that his proposed method of combating HIV/AIDS is not only ineffective, but in fact runs contrary to the Christian moral teaching held up by the university.
As UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006, Lewis became a loud and active opponent of abstinence programs, advocating instead the use of condoms. Most notable was his harsh critique of the Bush administration's $15 billion 'President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief' (PEPFAR), which promoted in part the 'ABC' approach – abstinence, be faithful, condoms.
“What PEPFAR has done is to have made it possible for a number of Pentacostal and more fundamentalist churches to pursue the abstinence agenda,” stated Lewis in 2005, according to Reuters.
At the 2004 AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Lewis responded to U.S. envoy Randall Tobias' proposed solution of promoting abstinence and fidelity by calling it “foolhardy,” “destructive,” and “out of date.” “Tobias has an ideological agenda, and the ideological agenda is abstinence over condoms as a matter of public policy,” he told reporters. “But that ideological agenda, with respect, is wrong, and most of the experts and scientists understand that it's wrong.”
The evidence would seem to indicate otherwise, however. According to Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, it is condom distribution that has exacerbated the AIDS epidemic. “There is a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates,” he said in an interview earlier this year.
“This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation,” Green explained, “meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction 'technology' such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by 'compensating' or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”
In Green's book, Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries, he reveals, according to a description, that “the largely medical solutions funded by major donors have had little impact in Africa, the continent hardest hit by AIDS. Instead, relatively simple, low-cost behavioral change programs – stressing increased monogamy and delayed sexual activity for young people – have made the greatest headway in fighting or preventing the disease's spread.”
Despite the massive support for condoms in AIDS prevention circles, the ineffectiveness of condoms at preventing the spread of AIDS is increasingly being acknowledged. UNAIDS itself estimated in a 2003 study that condoms are ineffective 10% of the time, which is lower than other estimates that have put it at 20 or even 50%.
Medical journalist Sue Ellin Browder revealed her findings in 2006 that large increases in condom distribution in Africa paralleled massive growth in HIV/AIDS infection rates. For example, according to Browder the number of condoms distributed in South Africa grew from 6 million to 198 million from 1994 to 1998, and the death rate from HIV/AIDS increased by 57 % from 1997 to 2002.
Uganda's 'ABC' anti-AIDS program, emphasizing abstinence and fidelity first, bears out this evidence, having achieved the greatest success of all the African nations in the fight against AIDS. The 2008 UNAIDS Epidiomological Fact Sheet estimates that HIV prevalence among adults in Uganda dropped from about 15% in 1990 to about 5% in 2007.
Despite Uganda's success, Stephen Lewis has bemoaned the “condom crisis” in the country. “There is no question in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by PEPFAR,” he said in a Johannesburg teleconference in August 2005, “and by the extreme policies that the administration in the U.S. is now pursuing in the emphasis on abstinence. à That distortion of the preventive apparatus … is resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.”
The following month, the Director of the Global Center for Uganda's ABC Strategy, Martin Ssempa, called on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to fire Lewis. “Mr. Lewis is using the entire body of the UN for his personal agenda of condomizing the developing nations,” wrote Ssempa. “Why he has the audacity to fight the only nation which has demonstrated success in reducing HIV/AIDS is utterly beyond me.”
“Why isn't Lewis talking about Botswana, South Africa and other nations which have taken UNAIDS advise of more condoms but now have the highest rates of HIV in the world?” Ssempa asked. “Why is he picking on Uganda which has been a shining example of behaviour change since 1988?”
Ssempa expressed outrage again following Lewis' contention at the 2006 AIDS Conference in Toronto that abstinence education is faulty because African men cannot be expected to control their sexual desires. “To change the sexual behaviour of men is a question of generations,” Lewis said. “Women are dying now.”
Ssempa called such statements “bigoted, colonialist and imperialist.” “The reason we have four million new [AIDS] infections every year is that the internationalist AIDS groups have ruled out African men as animals with no self-control,” he said. “This is an offence to all men who love their wives and their families and are trying to raise their daughters and are working to provide stability in the midst of great difficulty.”
Richard Wikkerink (Associate Vice-President, Student Development and Registrar)
777 Garner Rd East
Phone: (905) 648-2139 ext. 4298
E-mail: [email protected]
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
The Tiny Mind of Stephen Lewis
African Women not Helpless Victims says Ugandan AIDS Fighter
Lewis' Rwanda Report Blames Christian Church For Genocide
New Research Confirms Condoms Not Effective in HIV Prevention