.- A debate erupted at the 15th International AIDS Conference yesterday after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told delegates that abstinence, not condoms, is the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS, reported Reuters.
The issue has set many AIDS activists at odds with health experts and the United States, which back condoms as the major defense against AIDS.
Museveni told delegates he considers condoms âan improvisation, not a solution.â
Instead, he called for âoptimal relationships based on love and trust instead of institutionalized mistrust, which is what the condom is all about.â
Museveniâs remarks were based on his countryâs success story with AIDS, which resulted from a national abstinence campaign. Official figures indicate that six percent of Uganda's 26.5 million people are now infected, down from 30 percent in the 1980s.
Uganda's "ABC" method (Abstinence, Being faithful and Condoms) is a model for the AIDS policies of the Bush administration.
In Asia, where infection rates are rising, some NGOs advocate the âCNN methodâ which stresses condoms, needles and negotiation, which has not shown any significant success.
U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to attend the weeklong meeting, criticized the Bush administrationâs approach and said âabstaining from sex is oftentimes not a choice, and therefore their only hope in preventing HIV infection is the use of condoms".
But Ted Green, a member of Bush's council on AIDS, questioned the focus on condoms and the belief that âpeople can't stop AIDS unless they buy a product.â
Simon Onaba, a Uganda youth delegate, who first had sex at age 15 but who has shunned it for the past three years, said condoms were not a 100-percent guarantee against infection, reported Reuters.
"I am a sexual being, but I recognize HIV/AIDS is a killer," said Onaba. "I will wait until my wedding night."
AIDS has killed about 20 million people to date; about 38 million are infected.