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June 30, 2008

African Voices Ignored in African AIDS Fight?

The ideas and wisdom of Africans have been left out of the dialogue of how to fight AIDS on the continent, says Rev. Sam L. Ruteikara, cochair of Uganda's National AIDS-Prevention Committee, in a Washington Post editorial (washingtonpost.com, 6/30).

Ruteikara says that the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has been stalled in the U.S. Senate for months, will help stop the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa only if “HIV/AIDS profiteers” stop using the continent for personal gain.

“AIDS is no longer simply a disease; it has become a multibillion-dollar industry,” he writes.

According to Ruteikara, AIDS-prevention experts in Uganda found in the late 1980s that abstinence and faithfulness campaigns were most effective in helping to reduce the country’s prevalence of HIV. However, he says, international experts came to Uganda and (critiqued/dismantled) the country’s proven method of prevention. He writes, “[International experts] said we were wrong to try to limit people's sexual freedom. Worse, they had the financial power to force their casual-sex agendas upon us.”

Ruteikara says that, as fidelity and abstinence have been pushed out of the conversation, HIV rates in Uganda have risen again.

“We, the poor of Africa, remain silenced in the global dialogue. Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored,” Ruteikara says. “So hear my plea, HIV/AIDS profiteers. Let my people go. We understand that casual sex is dear to you, but staying alive is dear to us. Listen to African wisdom, and we will show you how to prevent AIDS.”


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