Not too long ago we were touting the wonders of abstinence education and the HIV control program in Uganda. More here and here. You may recall the emphasis of the Ugandan anti HIV education program, encouraged by the Bush administrations, away from use of condoms to abstinence. They claimed, prematurely it seems, to have the HIV epidemic under control.
In the 1980s, Uganda earned renown for pushing its infection rate to 6 percent from 18 percent. Many here still remember the pounding drums on the radio and the slogans “Practice ABC” and “zero grazing” — no extramarital sex.
But infection rates are creeping back up. Casual sex is on the rise, epidemiological surveys say.
Condom use, never very high, has dropped. Even among people who know they are infected, only 30 percent consistently use condoms.
Abstinence education if it isn’t accepted by the population didn’t work. And while the epidemic is reasserting itself the international community is suffering from HIV assistance fatigue.
Uganda is the first country where major clinics routinely turn people away, but it will not be the last. In Kenya next door, grants to keep 200,000 on drugs will expire soon. An American-run program in Mozambique has been told to stop opening clinics. There have been drug shortages in Nigeria and Swaziland. Tanzania and Botswana are trimming treatment slots, according to a report by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.
The collapse was set off by the global recession’s effect on donors, and by a growing sense that more lives would be saved by fighting other, cheaper diseases. Even as the number of people infected by AIDS grows by a million a year, money for treatment has stopped growing.
Medicynical Note: In fact, the emphasis on abstinence was wrong. It confused the education message and in doing so undermined the use of condoms as a mechanism to prevent spread. The “great success” of Uganda never was.
We now add to the continuing disastrous legacy of the Bush administration, the collapse of the anti-HIV campaign in Africa. Can you imagine starting a long term expensive treatment program that in addition to treatment forced the use of unproven prevention method, abstinence, without implementing a mechanism to pay for it. Amazing!