After twenty years as an AIDS prevention activist in Uganda, Martin Ssempa says he has concluded that the real culprit in the spread of the disease "is sexual promiscuity driven by immorality of the heart." Uganda's highly successful AIDS prevention program has focused on encouraging sexual abstinence and fidelity in marriage. "Our successful policy," he said, "always put abstinence and being faithful ahead of any medical products such as condoms and testing."
Earlier this week, at the start of his trip to Africa, Pope Benedict told reporters that the solution to the AIDS problem is "a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another." Condemnation by the world's media, and the international AIDS and homosexual organisations, exploded when the pope said, "If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem."
Uganda's population is mainly Christian, and the message, supported by government-sponsored promotion, that men and women should not engage in extra-marital sex dramatically reduced Uganda's AIDS rate over the last couple decades. Ssempa and other local AIDS activists have frequently decried the interference of US and Europe-based international organizations who reject abstinence and fidelity principles in favor of condoms. This, they say only encourages promiscuity and the spread of the deadly disease. Since the intervention of the international AIDS groups, with their emphasis on condoms and downplaying of abstinence, Uganda's AIDS rate has begun, according to local experts, to "tick back up."
Ssempa co-authored Uganda's successful policy with Dr. Edward Green of Harvard University's Center for Population and Development Studies. Dr. Green told the National Review Online this week that Pope Benedict's assertion that condoms only make the AIDS crisis worse is backed by the research.
"There is," Green said, "a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates."
Ssempa warned that there is no security in using condoms to protect against the AIDS virus. "Those who believe that they can put all their trust in getting a perfect condom in Africa are totally out of sync with the realities of Africa. "In 2004 more than 40 million condoms of the Engabu brand were found to be defective and were recalled to be destroyed. This was after a huge public outcry on the condom failures which may have exposed many people to HIV/AIDS in the false hope of security from these latex from China."
Ssempa said that there needs to be a complete rethinking of the reliance on condoms. Citing Dr. Green's work at Harvard, he said, "We must ask the tough question, why does the nations in Africa with the highest condoms correspond with the highest HIV/AIDS? These include Botswana and South Africa who have the first and highest condoms per male, yet their numbers of HIV/AIDS are also the same. "They are in the top three spots of the nations with the highest HIV/AIDS. On the other hand nations with lower condoms per male per year correspond with lower HIV/AIDS."
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