April #100 : Africa’s Mayor - by Akiko Matsuda

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Table of Contents

Getting Out Alive

Last Call

He Said, He Said

Outside In

Myth vs. Reality in the Pen

The Hook-Up

Africa’s Mayor

3 x 5 Report Card

Tribute: Wilfredo Valencia Palacios Roman

Earthwatch: Prison Focus

Website of the month: AIDSVote.org

Medicare Malaise

See You in the Lobby

Show & Tell: Oscar Time



Cirque du So Lame

Can HIV Care Click in the Clink?

A Bitter Pill

Comfort Zone: SpiceBoy

The Sweetest Taboo

Diamond in the Roughage

Head Games

Looking for Liver Helpers

Quick Study: Painkiller


Cheek to Chic

Warning Signs

Quick Study: Sexual Satisfaction

Publisher’s Letter


Live To Tell: With Conviction

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

April 2004

Africa’s Mayor

by Akiko Matsuda

Can a Bible Belt politician sell Uganda’s safe-sex model to his hometown?

Everyone from Beyoncé to Bono to President Bush has dropped by Africa to help fight its AIDS plague. But the mayor of Macon, Georgia—who made the pilgrimage three times last year—says Africa taught him how to fight HIV back home. Jack Ellis, 58, Macon’s first African-American mayor, has endured bomb threats from local racists. Now he’s bucking conservative Southern Baptists with a Uganda-inspired proposal to distribute condoms in his city’s high schools. Two-thirds of Macon’s roughly 97,300 residents are African American, and HIV has risen in that community for the past decade, especially among young women.

“Uganda should be a model for the rest of the world,” Ellis said. The East African country’s “ABC” (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) strategy is credited with slashing its HIV rate. In 1995, 18.5 percent of pregnant Ugandan women tested positive—but by 2001, that figure had dropped to 6.5 percent. “They’ve done that through open and honest dialogue,” the mayor said. “[HIV and condoms are] not a taboo subject.” Especially since his own cousin’s death in 1994, Ellis has had no time for timidity: “Even though most of us knew he died of AIDS, we were still saying he died of cancer or pneumonia. We should be honest and say, ‘He had AIDS.’”

After representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Uganda last September, Ellis announced his plan. “Mayor: Provide Condoms to Teens,” The Macon Telegraph’s front page blared, and quoted him saying, “Who are we kidding? We know they’re having sex.” Angry letters followed, one protesting “such revolting headlines” (sic) on the anniversary of 9/11. The local Baptist Association asked him for an explanation, Ellis told the paper later. Raynette Evans, the school district’s health director, told POZ, “Our teachers are all satisfied with our curriculum. The message from schools is—and should be—to stay abstinent from sex until marriage.”

Mayor Ellis, a retired Army officer and Vietnam vet, will have to take the Battle of Macon all the way to Atlanta: A state law bans birth control in public schools. In fact, the legislature is debating budget cuts that could eliminate condoms from Georgia’s teen-pregnancy clinics. “It’s so frustrating,” Ellis said. “This disease is preventable.”

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