NewsMon Aug 14, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST
International AIDS Conference Opens in Toronto: Gates Booed For Mentioning Abstinence, Faithfulness
By John Jalsevac
TORONTO, Canada, August 14, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is currently playing host to many of the world’s most influential movers and shakers as the world’s largest international AIDS conference gets underway. For the next five days approximately 24,000 delegates, including the “Double-Bill”– Bill Gates and Bill Clinton – will attend numerous seminars and speeches, all in an ostensible attempt to combat what Gates and other conference attendees are calling “public enemy No. 1”—AIDS.
The general flavour of the conference, however, was made abundantly clear during Gates’ opening remarks, where the thousands of delegates violently booed one of the rare mentions of abstinence and sexual fidelity as possible solutions to AIDS, and enthusiastically cheered for latex, pharmaceuticals, and increasing acceptance of prostitution and hard drug use.
In his opening remarks to the conference Gates briefly mentioned the controversial ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful and Condoms) program, the program of HIV/Aids prevention that is pushed internationally by the Bush Administration, and which has been employed with unprecedented success by the Ugandan government. “This approach,” said Gates, “has saved many lives, and we should expand it.”
The mere mention of the program, however, which focuses primarily on abstinence and faithfulness as the surest means of prevention, with condom-use as a distant last resort, provoked unanimous and energetic boos from the thousands of attendees.
Unperturbed, Gates, to sudden and swelling cheers, then continued to highlight the “limits” of such a program, and criticized abstinence and faithfulness as ultimately ineffective and unrealistic methods of prevention. In the course of the speech the United States Government’s anti-prostitution and anti-drug stance also came under fire for allegedly endangering sex-workers and drug addicts.
Gates, however, did also criticize condoms, pointing out that condom usage is initiated by the man in a sexual encounter. Women, said Gates, must be given more power to prevent HIV infection themselves. To that end the Gates Foundation is adding to the host of artificial and chemical “solutions” to Aids by funding research to develop powerful oral and vaginal chemicals that can be used by women just prior to sex to prevent transmission of the HIV virus.
Gates’ wife, Melinda Gates, who is also active in the multi-billion dollar efforts of the Gates Foundation, concurred with her husband in his criticisms of the ABC program, expressing a faith in the condom that many pro-life advocates argue is scientifically and statistically unfounded. “Some people believe that condoms encourage sexual activity, so they want to make them less available,” complained Melinda Gates. “But withholding condoms does not mean fewer people have sex; it means fewer people have safe sex, and more people die.”
Melinda Gates also called into question the good-will of condom opponents, accusing them of having ultimately destructive ulterior motives. “In some countries with widespread Aids epidemics,” she said, “leaders have declared the distribution of condoms immoral, ineffective or both. Some have argued that condoms do not protect against HIV, but in fact help spread it. This is a serious obstacle to ending Aids. In the fight against Aids, condoms save lives. If you oppose the distribution of condoms, something is more important to you than saving lives.”
Unlike the 2004 International Aids Conference, where Uganda received an enormous amount of coverage for successfully and dramatically reducing its HIV/Aids infection rates by means of the ABC program, Gates’ opening remarks seemed to indicate that this year’s conference will continue to focus on forgetting Uganda’s behaviour-driven successes and return to the traditional Aids conference agenda of artificial and chemical solutions to the pandemic.
The dearth of an objective discussion of behavioural solutions that strike at the very heart of the Aids pandemic, and the exclusive focus on superficial chemical solutions, however, is nothing new at international Aids conferences. Dr. Edward C. Green, PhD, an AIDS prevention worker and senior research scientist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development complained in 2002 that presentations from the USAID and Centers for Disease Control staff made no mention of abstinence or faithfulness in assessing the Ugandan situation. “They spoke exclusively about latex, drugs, vaccine research,” he complained.