TORONTO, October 29, 2004 ( – In recent months there has been a “dramatic” change in policy in Africa by many western aid agencies that are for the first time in decades allowing Africans to decide to use aid funds for nutrition, basic health care and abstinence programs instead of the usual population control. Kenyan pediatrician Dr. Margaret Ogola related this development to in an October 19 interview in Toronto where Ogola had come to speak and meet old friends. Dr. Ogola is the medical director of the Cottolengo Hospice in Nairobi, Kenya for HIV-positive orphans and heads the Commission for Health and Family Life for the Kenyan bishops’ conference. She has spent the 10 years treating numerous AIDS infected children, most of whom acquired AIDS from their mothers, either in utero, or as a result of drinking their mothers’ HIV infected breast milk.

AIDS has become a women’s disease in Africa, says Ogola, with HIV infected women outnumbering men 3 to 1 because of poverty and resulting transactional sex and because of the breakdown of family structures as a result of 2 million AIDS deaths. In her Toronto talks Dr. Ogolo related the joys and many sorrows of her work with these young children, many of whom have died, not directly from the disease, but from other conditions that had nothing to do with AIDS and which might have been successfully treated with basic health care and nutrition which were often not available to their poor families.

Ogola told that in the early 80’s and 90’s, when there were huge numbers of young people dying of AIDS, “the aid agencies did not want to have anything to do with treatment”, infant nutrition or prevention strategies, such as abstinence programs, which she says are natural to African culture.

She emphasized that aggressive western promotion of the condom by the aid agencies were “very destructive for Africans”, weakened their natural African moral fibre and made them more prone to acquiring AIDS. However, Dr. Ogala related, in the last year and especially in the last few months, there has been a ‘dramatic change’ in the situation. “It’s truly encouraging”, she says, “that finally USAID American money can be used for abstinence campaigns”.

Regarding the U.S. Bush administration, Dr. Ogola stated, “they have removed the massive amounts of funding that was going to contraception and are actively moving towards health care and this was one of my problems for many years as a health professional that I could not treat ordinary illnesses while we had massive contraceptive technology as part of the aid given to Africans.””So”, she continued, “this government (Bush), whatever other difficulties it may have, the impact of the Bush Administration on the health structures in Africa is going to be felt for many years down the line positively.” Ogola stated the same dramatic change is happening in several other African countries. “We are now allowed to use American money to treat tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS with large sums coming in.””This year alone” she said, “we will have sums coming in to put 45,000 of the 200,000 Kenyans with AIDS who require anti retro viral drugs on treatment.”

Only 5,000 Kenyans are currently receiving such life sustaining treatment which will add about 10 years to their lifespans while the search for better treatment is underway. This also allows many AIDs infected parents to continue to care for and instruct their children who would otherwise be orphaned at an early age and possibly also acquire AIDS without the guidance and support of their parents. With the new influx of funding for abstinence programs, Ogola said that teens are being attracted to abstinence and it has become fashionable. “They are being taught it is fashionable to wait” she said, and “it’s a major 360 degree turn.””Kenyans have suffered massively”, Ogola said, and that, she says, is why they are now demanding their government insist on and implement far more effective uses of foreign aid funds. “It has been a hard lesson”, she says. Ogola says the changed aid conditions and constant public education at all levels “tackles all the issues that the condom debate simply covered.” This is also hugely helping Kenyans, she emphasized, to deal with the massive orphan crisis they will have over the next 10 years as a result of the 2 million deaths of young parents. Sj