By Hilary White

TORONTO, August 17, 2006 ( – Huge profits for pharmaceutical and condom manufacturers, bottomless grants for researchers and NGO’s, publicity and money for research foundations, six-digit salaries for advertising executives and increasing fame for big name celebrities are creating a disincentive to actually stop the disease say some AIDS activists.

The “AIDS industry,” is a multi-billion dollar international enterprise now, and those who gather to enjoy lavish meals and hotels in Toronto this week, are more interested in “managing the disease” than in curing it or stopping its spread, says Martin Sempa, a leading AIDS fighter from Uganda.

Sempa, who has struggled against HIV/AIDS in his home country for 16 years – through radio, college “edutainment” rallies, research and advocacy and government policy formulation – told that the roving publicity circus that the annual International AIDS Conferences have become is a distraction from what is really happening in Africa and other countries blighted with the disease.

But worse than this, he says, they have become a vehicle for an inhuman leftist ideology under the guise of multi-million dollar philanthropy, a vehicle for a Hollywood-style celebrity cult and brazen anti-American political machine.

“Most of these guys don’t care about stopping HIV/AIDS but just about managing the disease, keeping it going so they can continue to profit,” Sempa said.

“It’s a multi-billion dollar industry,” he said. “Pharmaceuticals, condoms, counsellors, distributors, advertising executives, grants for fake human rights groups and celebrity status. If you have AIDS you can be a star if you promote their agenda. It’s become a disease of opportunity. If AIDS stopped today there would be millions of people who would stop getting an income.”

“I wouldn’t waste my time.” Sempa said when asked why he had not attended the Conference. “I didn’t want to spend good money on fancy hotels and expensive meals to have no one listen to me. In Bangkok {2004}, the president of Uganda was booed {for promoting his country’s abstinence program}. It was a hostile social environment and not conducive to a free exchange of ideas. A single mention of abstinence makes them become rabid.”Â

“Our programs are under attack by human rights groups who claim that in trying to turn people away from sexual promiscuity, we are violating human rights. Human rights to them means condoms.”

This week the approximately 24,000 delegates to the Toronto AIDS Conference have heard arguments for legalizing prostitution and promoting IV drug use by creating government funded injection sites, as well as more mundane presentations on the medical aspects of the disease itself and the latest antiretroviral drug treatments.

It has been made clear by speakers that the fight against AIDS is going to be a matter more of prevention than of cure and treatment, and the need for an effective prevention method is growing more urgent by the day. According to the most recent UNAIDS report, half of all 15-year-old boys in Zimbabwe can expect to die before the age of 50. It was also said then thatÂa third of the work force would be lost by the year 2005. Life expectancy for womenÂwas thenÂonly 39 years.

The emphasis on glittering celebrities and lavish conferences has annoyed even those activists attending the Toronto conference. The National Post reports that Sipho Mthathi, head of the South African group Treatment Action Campaign, said that movie stars and other celebrities are distracting from the actual people with the disease and the people working to help them.

“This conference has been more of a Hollywood conference for philanthropists and stars than for people who are living with AIDS,” Mathathi said. “We would like this to be registered by the International AIDS Society that we are quite aggrieved. Does money and does being a former president buy you a voice in today’s times?”

On Sunday, Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus in the 1980s who did not attend, was quoted on the front page of the Toronto Star blasting the conference as “irrelevant” and “silly.” He added that if it takes celebrity star power to get people to come to such a conference, “then you’ve got the wrong people coming.”

Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton, pointed out the heavy-handed political bias of Canada’s leftist population control and abortion promoting superstar, Stephen Lewis, recently appointed as the UN’s special envoy for AIDS in Africa.

Pinkerton wrote, “{Lewis} seems to spend most of his time not in Africa, but instead lecturing Western governments about their shortcomings.”

“It’s hard to imagine that Lewis is helping Africa by bashing the big donor countries, especially when he doesn’t even have his facts straight. On Wednesday he decried President George W. Bush’s pro-abstinence policies, describing them as ‘incipient neo-colonialism.’”

Martin Sempa was even more forthright about Lewis’ shortcomings in the AIDS fight. “I wrote a letter to {UN Secretary General} Kofi Anan telling him the best thing he can do for AIDS in Africa is to fire Stephen Lewis. He is not interested in stopping AIDS but only in promoting his political agenda.”

Sempa said, “This movement doesn’t think any more. It’s agenda based and driven. If you don’t like George Bush, attack the AIDS program in Africa. Or the Iraq war.

If you don’t like the Pope or the Catholic Church you can attack him on his stand against condoms. That’s how the AIDS crisis is being used politically.”

Read related coverage:

International AIDS Conference Opens in Toronto: Gates Booed For Mentioning Abstinence, Faithfulness

Ugandan Abstinence AIDS Prevention Program Equivalent to a Highly Effective Vaccine, Researchers Find

AIDS Specialist and Former Condom Advocate Speaks on Switch to Abstinence

HIV Escalating: 20% Increase in Canada; Doubles to 40 Million World-Wide

Read James Pinkerton’s column on the AIDS Conference and the “Sex Trade”:,0,1810804.column?coll=ny-viewpoints-headlines