Condom use has long been the strategy of choice against AIDS among American health officials. However, Ugandans are battling the disease by promoting abstinence and fidelity; and they’re winning. According to an article in the May 27 The New Republic, while American public health officials have been slow to respond to a strategy they considered impossible to implement, Uganda’s success has led many to reconsider.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni started his “ABC Program” in the late 1980s when he learned that a third of his army officers were HIV-positive. The initials stand for “Abstain,” “Be Faithful,” and “Use a Condom”-in that order. The message of sexual purity was promoted via official speeches, school curricula and billboards. And the results have been staggering: Uganda’s HIV-prevalence has decreased from 21.2 percent in 1991 to only 6.2 percent.
Possibly most surprising to American health officials is that sexual behavior actually is changing. The percentage of women reporting multiple sexual partners decreased from 18.4 percent in 1989 to only 2.5 percent in 2000. Men reported smaller but similar declines in promiscuity.
“Uganda’s outstanding success really has American heads turning,” says Dr. Milton Amayun, World Vision’s HIV/AIDS international program representative. “Experts in the U.S. are starting to see the value of teaching people to limit their sexual relationships within the context of marriage.”