by Steven Ertelt
December 1, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — President George W. Bush pledged that the United States would continue assist international efforts to combat the spread of the HIV virus that causes the AIDS epidemic resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people. However, he said that abstinence education is the "only sure way" to combat AIDS.
"On World AIDS Day, we underscore our commitment to fight the AIDS pandemic with compassion and decisive action," the president said in a statement released concerning the UN-backed World AIDS Day.
"America leads the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and through the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief we are combating the disease in countries around the world," he said.
However, the president said a comprehensive strategy to combat AIDS would only be effective if abstinence education is a major component.
He said other nations need to adopt the American "ABC approach encouraging abstinence, being faithful, and using condoms, with abstinence as the only sure way to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS."
The abstinence education efforts have proven very effective in African nations like Uganda.
Rev. Sam Lawrence Ruteikara of the Anglican Church of Uganda, who has received funds from the U.S. government, says the abstinence message makes more sense to promote to younger teens than using condoms.
"Why give an alternative and have them take a risk," he told the Associated Press.
"This person doesn’t have a sexual partner, so why should I report too much, saying that in case you get a sexual partner, please use a condom. I am saying, please don’t get a sexual partner — don’t get involved because it is risky," he explained.
The focus on abstinence has paid dividends where it has been used extensively and Uganda rates of AIDS have gone down during the last decade.
Washington-area investigative writer Carey Roberts wrote in a Washington Times article in late 2004 that Uganda has been using abstinence to combat AIDS for 15 years.
"The results were impressive: the HIV infection rate in Uganda dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent. In 1991, 21 percent of pregnant women had the deadly HIV virus. Ten years later, that figure had dropped to 6 percent," Roberts wrote in the Times article.
In fact, only 6.2% of Ugandans in the 15-49 age group are now HIV-positive, compared with more than 15% in the early 1990s.
Rep. Chris Smith, a pro-life New Jersey congressman, told AP he saw the firsthand results of the abstinence message when he toured Uganda in January.
He said he saw abstinence rallies and volunteers conducting door to door campaigns to help people.
"The good news about the faith-based groups is not only the passion they bring to the work, but it is the moral authority and the extended numbers of volunteers they can mobilize to get the word out," Smith said.
AIDS has killed as many as 25 million people worldwide and infected more than 40 million others since it was discovered 25 years ago.
More than 60 percent of the people infected with the AIDS virus live in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa has the highest number of HIV-infected people in the world.