by Steven Ertelt
June 28, 2007
Lusaka, Namibia (LifeNews.com) — In a visit to several African nations on a tour of the continent, First Lady Laura Bush touted abstinence education as the best way to battle the AIDS disease that still ravages the region. She spoke at a community center on the eastern outskirts of Zamibia’s capital with people who are giving care to AIDS victims and their families.
The trip sees Bush and daughter Jenna heading through Mali, Mozambique and Nambia.
Bush told reporters abstinence "is a very important component of the program."
"There are several ways in which we can reach young people," she said. "One of the effective ways is abstinence … it brings back dignity and self-responsibility to young people."
Canisius Banda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told the Associated Press that American relief programs and US-supported faith-based groups present a good abstinence message.
"They are very strong on abstinence as well as being faithful," he said.
The abstinence programs have been working, especially in countries like Uganda where it has become the bulk of the anti-AIDS fight.
Uganda’s remarkably low rate of AIDS/HIV stems from the public health decision to promote abstinence till marriage and "zero grazing" as keys to sexual health. Officials there document higher rates of both premarital abstinence and marriage.
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.
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.
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.