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Marriage isn’t the problem, infidelity is

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th February 2006 03:00 AM

Letter of the Day

SIR – Beatrice Were makes a case that the fighting of stigma, not the ABC strategy, has been responsible for reducing HIV/AIDS in Uganda. She further makes the case that US policy has caused Uganda to shift towards abstinence from condoms.

Letter of the Day

SIR – Beatrice Were makes a case that the fighting of stigma, not the ABC strategy, has been responsible for reducing HIV/AIDS in Uganda. She further makes the case that US policy has caused Uganda to shift towards abstinence from condoms.

Letter of the Day

SIR – Beatrice Were makes a case that the fighting of stigma, not the ABC strategy, has been responsible for reducing HIV/AIDS in Uganda. She further makes the case that US policy has caused Uganda to shift towards abstinence from condoms.

She says marriage is dangerous to women and the solution is to give married women condoms and teach them assertive skills. She adds that Uganda is carrying out Abstinence and Be faithful campaigns because of US pressure and makes a case that we should even embrace HIV/AIDS beauty contests.

Unfortunately, there are no facts to back up Were’s claims. First, there is no documented case of any country that has ever brought down HIV/AIDS infection rates by simply fighting stigma. Fighting stigma has helped in providing non-judgemental assistance to people with AIDS but has not been a major tool in its prevention.

A good example is Botswana where anti-stigma beauty contests have been held for the last three years, yet AIDS continues unabated. Were is rewriting history to please the anti-abstinence, pro-condom and anti-marriage lobby groups. She should provide us with the research data to back up this appeal.

Secondly, she should acquaint herself with documented studies and concrete programmes of what happened in Uganda, especially between 1986-94. She needs to read Ted Green’s Rethinking AIDS Prevention, visit the John Hopkins School of Medicine’s website and look up the many posters of Uganda’s early AIDS campaign, some of which say, “Thank God I rejected promiscuity... I am therefore safe from HIV/AIDS.”

That was the campaign. Try finding one that is about fighting stigma; you won’t succeed. It was a campaign loud on Abstinence and Being faithful but soft-spoken on the Condom. Were and her friends should not blame George Bush for causing Uganda to shift to abstinence. It has always been Abstinence first, Being faithful next and then a quiet Condom policy.

Thirdly, Were blames lack of condoms and assertiveness for her, as a woman, for her contracting AIDS from her late husband. The problem is infidelity, not marriage. More efforts should be put on mutual fidelity. Many people falsely hope that the presence of condoms and assertiveness are the key answers to the epidemic.

Look at Botswana, which has the highest gross per capita income in Africa and has had a 20-year condom campaign, but its HIV infection rates just keep rising. The safest way for people to have sex is the same way we fight AIDS in blood.

Make sure that there is no infection in the fluids. And keep it that way through mutual fidelity and regular HIV/AIDS testing. It is increasingly becoming fashionable to blame marriage with highly emotional but scientifically unsubstantiated statements. Such blame cites studies from Kisumu in Kenya and Ndola in Zambia. These studies say married girls aged 15-18 are more likely to have HIV/AIDS than their non-married agemates.

First, Kisumu is a fishing town, and there are many studies about the high HIV infection among fishing communities, which are very mobile by nature. Secondly, Ndola is a mining town in the Zambian copperbelt, which is also very transient and has high HIV/AIDS rates. Marriage is being stigmatised, and this is unfortunate. We have heard statements such as “it is safer to be a prostitute than a wife in Africa!” What a lie!

The Ministry of Health’s Dr. Sam Okware released findings that 60% of the prostitutes in Uganda have HIV/AIDS, yet we know that the HIV infection rate in the general community is 6.5%, including the marrieds. Marriage is safer than prostitution! Statements against marriage will lead to loss of confidence in the institution and fuel HIV/AIDS.

Pastor Martin Ssempa
The Global Centre for Uganda’s ABC strategy
Kampala

Marriage isn’t the problem, infidelity is

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