Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Uganda: Museveni on condoms

Yesterday, Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini gave a speech at the AIDS conference in Thailand. In that speech, he reportedly downplayed the role condoms have played in his country's successful efforts to reduce HIV prevalence rates. Since I couldn't find a full-text copy of his speech, I've culled as much as I can from various news reports ...
"I'm against plans by those who want to 'condomise' the world by telling us that it holds the ultimate solution," he said.

"Condoms, in my opinion, are a good improvisation, but not the solution in the fight against Aids."

He noted that advocates of condoms use had not borne in mind that most men, especially in Africa, were drunk when having sex, and either did not wear them properly or forgot to use them altogether.

The president accused Europeans of fuelling the Aids spread in Africa by pushing for "ideologically based monogamy."

He said: "It is wrong to tell us to remain married 'for better or for worse', since couples whose marriage has failed will have no alternative but to seek sex elsewhere, fuelling the spread of the HIV.

"I think time has come for us to evaluate African marriages by synthesising our cultures and coming up with home-grown solutions."

Researchers, President Museveni added, should incorporate herbal medicine in the campaign, and governments should increase funding. (source1)

---

He blamed high prevalence of the virus in Africa on adoption of western family values which have forced couples to hang on to loveless marriages that encourage adultery.

"In our culture it used to be such that if a marriage was no longer useful it was dissolved but Christians brought about ideologically propelled unconditional monogamy where one had to stay married for no matter how bad the situation was," he said.

He noted that Uganda had managed to cut down the prevalence rate of the pandemic even though it has the lowest per capita use of condoms in sub-Saharan Africa.

"In our prevention campaigns we emphasized on abstinence and on being faithful rather than condom use. Ultimately we cannot become a condomised nation... condoms is just a stop gap, improvised measure," he said.

Besides, he said, condoms presuppose that the user will always be sober and that it can withstand the imaginative ways in which Africans make love. (source2)

---

Instead, he called for "optimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalised mistrust which is what the condom is all about". (source)

---

Speaking at the international Aids conference in Bangkok, Yoweri Museveni insisted that changing sexual behaviour, particularly by reducing the number of partners, was more important than the use of condoms.

"The principle of condoms is not the ultimate solution," he said. "In some cultures sexual intercourse is so elaborate that condoms are a hindrance. Let the condom be used by people who cannot abstain, cannot be faithful, or are estranged."

[...] Edward Green, a Harvard academic who advises the US on Aids policy, said excessive focus on condoms without addressing sexual behaviour was inadequate in societies where the disease had made deep inroads into the general population. (source)

People who disagre with Museveni ...
Steven Sinding, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a major HIV charity, pointed out that condom use in Uganda had risen from two per cent in 1989 to 59 per cent last year.

"It is impossible to deny the importance of condoms in the Ugandan story," he said.

"It is just counterproductive to be having a debate about condoms. I don't know why he [Mr Museveni] is taking it on this way and I do think it is harmful." (source)

---

In its report, Dying to Learn, published last year by Christian Aid, surveys showed that information and availability of condoms actually decreases unsafe sexual behaviour. Young people who receive sex education and condom information tended to delay first sexual experience and that they then practised safe sex.

Dr [Rachel] Baggaley [head of Christian Aid's HIV unit] said: 'Demand for this report has been huge. Church leaders at a recent meeting in Angola were extremely grateful to have this information to pass on to their congregations. It is a pity this futile debate has diverted attention from the real issues. Thousands continue to die everyday and thousands continue to be infected everyday. There is no time to waste.' (source)
----

1: Mwaniki, Mike. (2004, July 13). Museveni: Condom not the answer. The Nation.
2: Otieno, Dorothy. (2004, July 13). Condoms not ultimate answer, says Museveni. The East African Standard.