How AIDS in Uganda Became a Disaster When Christianity Trumped Science

From Global AIDS Alliance:

Back in 1986, when Ronald Reagan had yet to make a single public speech about AIDS, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni launched an ambitious HIV prevention campaign, which included massive condom distribution, explicit information about transmission, and messages about delaying sex and reducing numbers of partners. HIV rates dropped from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2001.

But conservative think tanks and Christian right activists saw what they wanted to see. Uganda’s balance of abstinence, being faithful, and condom use, or ABC, became abstinence, be faithful, with condoms “only as a last resort.” It was common to claim, as Focus on the Family’s James Dobson did in 2002, that, “Uganda has made great progress against AIDS by emphasizing abstinence, not condoms.”

This rewrite became a mantra in Washington, as a third of Bush’s global prevention money was set aside only for abstinence. Soon, players among Bush’s evangelical base, from Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse to Anita Smith’s Children’s AIDS Fund, began to rake in millions in federal grants to spread the abstinence-only message in Uganda. (Smith’s proposal was rejected by a scientific review committee, but the head of USAID intervened.) Martin Ssempa, a local minister known for staging public condom burnings, joined the U.S. money train. Museveni himself began to sing the new tune. At the 2004 International AIDS Conference, he disparaged condoms as an “improvisation, not a solution.” Uganda released a new HIV prevention plan based on A and B only, while Museveni’s evangelical wife proposed a national census of virgins.

(via No God Blog)