Just a few days away from the celebration of World AIDS Day, the prestigious medical magazine “The Lancet” has published a document signed by experts from 36 countries who for the first time recognize that abstinence and fidelity are key to stopping the spread of AIDS.

The text is endorsed by 150 specialists and states that “the time has come to unite efforts to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.”

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, representatives of the World Bank and of the Global Fund for Malaria, Tuberculosis and AIDS, and officials from five UN agencies are among the signers of the statement.

The experts argue that HIV-AIDS has become a health and humanitarian crisis that requires urgent intervention, especially in areas where the disease is prevalent, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The signers acknowledged that the use of condoms alone are not enough to stop the spread of AIDS and they stated that abstinence should be promoted among young people who have not yet engaged in sexual activity, emphasizing that avoiding risks is the best way to prevent AIDS and other STD infections, as well as unwanted pregnancies.

If sexual activity has already occurred, they said, such individuals should be encouraged to return to abstinence or mutual fidelity with a health person as the best way to avoid infection.

Although the experts continue to promote the use of condoms among “sexually active young people,” they insist they are not 100% safe.  “Young people and adults should know that condoms reduce the risk of infection from 80-90% when they are used consistently,” they said.

Likewise they promote preventative programs both at school and at home, stating that parents must assume their responsibility in the passing on of values and expectations related to the sexual behavior of their children.

Regarding sexually active adults, the first priority should be the promotion of mutual fidelity with a health partner, they said.  The experience in countries in which the incidence of infections has diminished shows that reduction in the number of partners is critical for achieving this objective on a wide scale.

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The case of Uganda

According to the Spanish medical publication “Diario Médico”, at the last International Conference on AIDS in Bangkok, “Several individuals criticized the abstinence and fidelity program promoted by the Ugandan government and defended by its president for other nations. It was not politically correct to speak in these terms.”  Nevertheless, according to the document in “The Lancet,” the inefficiency of other means and the interesting results of Uganda constitute a radical shift in the policies of prevention, up to now centered exclusively on condom use, especially among international entities.

In 1991, Uganda had 15% of its population infected with AIDS, and in the year 2002 that number fell by 5%.  UNAIDS has acknowledged that this decline is “unique in the world” and that Uganda is achieving results comparable with “the existence of a vaccination with an effectiveness of 80%.”