Wednesday August 31, 2005

United Nations Official Slams US for Abstinence Approach to AIDS in Uganda

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, August 31, 2005, ( – The ongoing lament by Canadian condom activist Stephen Lewis continues as the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa vilified Christians and the Bush Administration for their emphasis on abstinence-only programs. He especially blamed the policy for causing a shortage of condoms in Uganda. The Bush Administration has supported the abstinence-only (in practice) AIDS program in Uganda, a country that has seen great success and boasts one of the lowest infection rates in Africa. Uganda’s infection rate is far lower than Botswana, for example, which promotes condoms and has the world’s worst HIV infection rate. This year President George W. Bush’s global AIDS plan has budgeted about $8 million for abstinence-only projects in Uganda.

Lewis complained about the lack of condoms in a teleconference stating “There is no question in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven and exacerbated by PEPFAR (the U.S. Administration’s AIDS assistance program) and by the extreme policies that the administration in the U.S. is now pursuing in the emphasis on abstinence, … That distortion of the preventive apparatus … is resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred.” Lewis made his remarks in spite of the fact that the U.N. itself has warned about the inadequacy of condoms to prevent the spread of the disease.

Reuters quotes Lewis as claiming that “What PEPFAR has done is to have made it possible for a number of Pentacostal and more fundamentalist churches to pursue the abstinence agenda … I think the administration and PEPFAR have to come to their senses … to impose dogmatic policies is doing great damage to Africa..”

Lewis himself is dogmatic in his vilification of abstinence-based programs. Last year in Thailand the high-profile Lewis came unhinged at the conference after U.S. envoy Randall Tobias presented the proposal of abstinence and fidelity first. Lewis’ antagonism against Christianity is also a matter of record. Prior to the passage of the 1969 Canadian Omnibus Bill, which permitted widespread abortion in the country, Lewis was an outspoken abortion rights promoter. As Ontario leader of the socialist New Democratic Party he influenced the party to a hard line on abortion, stifling all pro-life protest. As Canada’s Ambassador to the U.N. Lewis accused the Catholic Church of being party to the genocide in Rwanda. Moreover, while Lewis was executive director of UNICEF, the Vatican pulled its funding from the UN Children’s Fund for its persistent association with abortion and contraception promoting programs. Lewis’ wife is former Toronto Star columnist Michele Landsberg, an exceptionally harsh critic of orthodox Christian morality.

In contrast to this ideological stand taken by Lewis and others, the Ugandan First Lady, Janet Museveni, last year encouraged young people to take the high road. Speaking at the official opening of an annual youth conference in Kampala, she told over 2000 young people, “You do not need sex at your age. Wait until you are married. You can choose to fight AIDS by saying no and be able to stay alive.”

She told the teens to ignore those who push condoms noting that companies which promote such products are after money. “Don’t give your airtime to anyone talking to you about using condoms,” Ms Museveni said. Adding she could “not be apologetic” for objecting to them.


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