Monday, July 19, 2004

Bdos: Personal responsibility determines whether one gets AIDS


And this week at an international conference of HIV/AIDS in the Thai capital of Bangkok, the United States policy on Aids prevention came under heavy fire and ignited a volatile debate on abstinence versus condoms. The Bush administration is adamant that sexual abstinence is the best way to stem the rapid spread of the disease. Some scientists and activists stoutly disagreed, maintaining that abstinence is only one facet of an effective anti-Aids regime. They contend that the pandemic can only be controlled if the use of condoms is promoted.

At present the US is the chief donor for the global fund to fight HIV and has made a commitment to spend $15 billion over five years, but has instituted strict guidelines on how the funds must be managed. International commentators insist that the Bush administration is under pressure to minimise the importance of condoms from its own “right wing” and has stipulated that 30 per cent of American anti-Aids funds go through religious organisations which either actively discourage or denigrate the use of condoms. The US stance received strong support from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose country is cited as role model in the Aids prevention war having reversed an escalating Aids debacle into an astounding success story. Speaking at the Bangkok summit President Museveni was resolute that abstinence and loving relationships within marriage were even more critical in tackling Aids than condoms. “In some cultures sexual intercourse is so elaborate that condoms are a hindrance,” he asserted, “Let the condom be used by people who cannot abstain, cannot be faithful, or are estranged.”

Some HIV/AIDS campaigners argue that a small percentage of the billions of dollars being deployed in the assault on terrorism should be diverted to combat the HIV/AIDS catastrophe, noting that the disease is now inextricably linked to poverty and illiteracy and has so far claimed 42 million lives. They cite recent studies which show that ignorance about sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS is at the core of the problem. Contending that abstinence is not an option for sex workers who ply the trade for survival, they also observed that women and girls living in patriarchal societies do not have the choice to abstain, demand safe sex or end relationships that expose them to the risk of infection.

The truth is, sexual abstinence can curb the proliferation of HIV/AIDS and maybe even terrorism. It would ensure that there are fewer of us left to create chaos in the world. However, the reality remains that by our very nature we are sexual creatures. Therefore a wide-ranging educational programme that promotes abstinence, marital and sexual fidelity and condom use could be a vital tool in trying to harness the pandemic. However, ultimately, personal responsibility for one’s sexually conduct can determine whether one becomes an Aids statistic or not.
Would that other columnists be as objective and insightful as this one in the Advocate.

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