Bush Needs to Relearn his ABCs

When his administration isn’t pushing the dangerous drug nevirapine, President Bush touts an abstinence first ideology, both here and abroad, when it comes to dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. One of his favorite examples is the country of Uganda:

“I think it’s really important for us to focus on prevention. We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They’ve started what they call the A-B-C approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms. That’s what A-B-C stands for. And it’s working. I like to call it a practical, balanced and moral message. I say it’s working because Uganda has cut its AIDS infection rate to 5 percent over 10 years. Prevention works.”

Fellow conservatives joined him in this rhetoric and went so far as to liken the use of condoms to playing Russian Roulette:

“Condoms also do provide 85 percent protection against the HIV/AIDS virus, or roughly the odds one has of escaping unscathed when playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter with one chamber lethally loaded — if you’re interested in playing Russian roulette.”

Now, a decade-long study by several reputable health researchers on what’s really going on with condoms, abstinence education, and the country of Uganda presents a completely different story:

“Abstinence and sexual fidelity have played virtually no role in the much-heralded decline of AIDS rates in the most closely studied region of Uganda…Instead, the deaths of previously infected people, not dramatic change in human behavior, represent the main engine behind the ebbing of the overall rate, or prevalence, of AIDS in southern Uganda over the past decade…”

And far from the risky business that conservatives would want us to believe, in fact, “only condom use has kept the deadly [HIV] virus in check” in Uganda.