Monday, April 11, 2005

Uganda's ABC Success: Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condom

The battle over Uganda's Aids campaign

On the billboard is a photo of two crested cranes - Uganda's national bird. "The Crested Crane sticks faithfully to one partner until death. Abstinence and faithfulness - 100% guaranteed," reads the caption below the entangled lovebirds.

Has the C for Condom been dropped from Uganda's Aids information campaign?
Read on and you learn that the poster has been put up by the office of first lady Janet Museveni. The first lady's office is one of the major recipients of US funding to combat HIV/Aids.

On the other side of the billboard is a picture of a truck driver passing "Safari Hotel" as two women try to flag him down. "Thank GOD I said NO to Aids - driving home to my wife," it states, before asking: "Abstinence - why not?"

This is a "condomless" billboard. There is no mention of the word "condom" or "safe sex".

This push for abstinence and faithfulness in the fight against HIV/Aids has been welcomed by some sections of society, especially religious groups.

Nothing wrong with advocating abstinence. The problem is this. The proponents of this approach simply want to make a point about their Christian values and not solve a problem. This approach assumes that people do what they know is the right thing to do. The truth is that people do not act in their best interest.

One simply cannot depend primarily on abstinence as a policy. You can advocate it, but you need to put the emphasis on the fact that humans have always in larger numbers opted for sexual activity than abstinence. It's the reason why so many marriages are destroyed by infidelity. People, more often that not, will choose sex over self interest and if your policy is to be effective, it has to reflect this basic fact.


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