Uganda has performed well in bringing down the HIV prevalence to around 6%. In many parts of the country, it was at least three times as high during the early 1990s. [Prior to the Wingnuts getting into it’s panties]

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly criticized the Ugandan government, accusing it of pushing the abstinence line while downplaying the safe sex message.

A “life-threatening” shift which HRW says is orchestrated and funded by the US.

It says the funding for abstinence is due to President George W Bush’s conservative Christian views, which are similar to those of Uganda’s first lady.

The US says it plans to spend more than $100m combating HIV/Aids in Uganda this year – of which more than $8m will be on the abstinence and faithfulness programme. Some of that money will be focused on the young.

This is a “condomless” billboard.

There is no mention of the word “condom” or “safe sex” it reads:Thank GOD I said NO to Aids – driving home to my wife,” it states, before asking: “Abstinence – why not?”

Despite the funding for abstinence based programmes, the Ugandan government is keen to deny that there has been any shift of emphasis.

“I would like to assure the world that we have continued to maintain abstinence, being faithful and the use of condoms as the principal strategy in the fight against HIV/Aids,” says Uganda’s Minister for Health, Mike Mukula.

Until a few months ago, a free magazine promoting safe sex was distributed to secondary schools by a non-profit organisation.

But this recently became controversial and faith-based organisations were concerned the magazine was encouraging sex.

As a result, the magazine has been ditched, and that avenue for getting the safe sex message to the students has now gone.

But the majority of young Ugandans do not make it beyond primary school and in a country where most people live on less than $1 a day, the link between poverty and sex is strong.

Christian groups in Uganda and the US are behind the new emphasis Rogers Kasirye works in the slums of Kampala with street children and teenage prostitutes. Poverty has forced many of them into taking risks.

“It is an economic problem. Many of the young people we are working with are surviving on sex, and the only option or barrier they have is the condom.

Whilst churches are pushing the abstinence message, not all religious leaders are happy with President Bush.

Reverend Gideon Byamugisha is HIV-positive and he hopes the US will carefully assess the way in which it influences policy in Uganda.

We are still hopeful that America, being a strong and well-meaning country, will not go down in history as a country which exported ideas at the expense of people’s free will to choose.”

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