Interview With a World Leader in AIDS-Prevention
By John Jalsevac
UGANDA, July 21, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - At the same time news has broken that the U.S. government has authorized the massivey increased, multi-billion dollar PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program, LifeSiteNews.com spoke with one of Africa’s foremost AIDS prevention experts - the co-chair of Uganda’s AIDS-prevention Committee, Rev. Sam L. Ruteikara. Besides co-chairing the prevention committee, the Anglican clergyman holds numerous other leadership positions with AIDS-fighting organizations.
Rev. Ruteikara stirred up controversy in the United States several weeks ago with the publication of an impassioned article "Let my People go, AIDS Profiteers," in the Washington Post, in which he alleged that Uganda’s wildly successful AIDS-prevention program has been systematically undermined by Western advisors bent upon promoting sexual license. In many cases, the Anglican clergyman claimed, these same groups or individuals have profited enormously from the ensuing rise in the AIDS infection levels through the manufacture and marketing of expensive AIDS treatment drugs. (See the complete article, republished by LifeSiteNews, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/jul/08072101.html)
The AIDS-prevention activist told LifeSiteNews.com today that he has been involved in the fight against AIDS for well over 20 years, since the mid-1980s. He related that he began to research the issue after certain groups and individuals alleged that AIDS was being spread by means of the communal cup from which Anglicans drink Holy Communion. While this theory was soon disproved, Ruteikara continued his research into AIDS prevention, eventually becoming an enthusiastic supporter of the so-called ABC approach to fighting the disease.
The ABC program places a heavy emphasis on sexual abstinence and faithfulness, with condoms being used as a last resort, an approach that Ruteikara credits with massively reducing the AIDS levels in his country.
Ruteikara told LifeSiteNews that, "to fight AIDS in Africa we need to begin to speak the truth about the epidemic." And the truth, he indicated, is that AIDS is spread primarily by those who engage in dangerous sexual practices, especially those who engage in sexual intercourse with numerous partners.
In the heyday of Uganda’s ABC program, sexual fidelity increased dramatically, and the rate of AIDS infection dropped proportionately. Now, however, Ruteikara lamented, under the powerful influence of Western "advisors," the ABC program is being abandoned and AIDS rates are once again climbing. Nowadays, he said, Ugandan’s are increasingly engaging in dangerous sexual practices, such as "transactional sex" (a widespread form of prostitution, in which sex is used as a bartering currency) or "transgenerational sex" (sex usually between an older man and a much younger woman).
"What are we doing to prepare people for marriage?" he asked. "What are we doing to bring people that are married to seminars to talk to them about faithfulness?" In order to successfully fight AIDS, he said, "What we need to do is encourage behaviour change through communication," and not simply hand out condoms or treat AIDS after the fact with expensive anti-retroviral drugs.
The AIDS-prevention activist reacted strongly to the suggestion that it is not possible to achieve such dramatic behaviour changes on a wide enough scale to make a difference. "It is not impossible!" he said. "There are so many studies here in Uganda showing that people actually change." These studies have been replicated, he said, in other African countries as well, such as Zambia.
Ruteikara also scorned the Western notion that by encouraging sexual abstinence and fidelity advocates of the ABC program are in any way infringing upon the sexual freedom of Ugandans. "It is not taking away their freedom," he insisted. "It is actually consolidating their freedom."
Sexual abstinence and fidelity, he said, lead to deep and lasting relationships based upon a love that is real and much more fulfilling in the long run than the fleeting pleasure experienced by someone who has sex with multiple partners. "If you have many partners it means that the love that is shared between them is not complete," he said. "Those who want to have many partners should be the exception and not the norm."
Ruteikara said that while Western "experts," backed financially by many of the large Western charities and drug companies, have exercised an undue level of influence on the AIDS-prevention program in Uganada, "The big percentage of Ugandan experts support the ABC program, because it is what works." In his Washington Post article, Ruteikara referred to this as the African "wisdom," borne out of experience.
The Ugandan’s sitting on the AIDS-prevention Committee, he said, only recently "overwhelmingly approved that ABC is still relevant. It is still relevant and it must be promoted."
As for those in the West who are interested in helping curtail the spread of AIDS in Africa, and not simply by increasing expensive AIDS-treatment programs or by handing out contraceptives, Ruteikara said, "The best way is to talk as loudly as you can to see what can be done. Maybe we need to talk and talk and someone will hear us."
"Alternatively," he said, "support programs, support some of these programs that promote abstinence and faithfulness so they become stronger."
Read Ruteikara’s Washington Post article, reprinted today by LifeSiteNews.com at: