Africa's Real AIDS Priority: Prevention
In his April 11 op-ed column, "The Traffic in Lusaka," Michael Gerson called AIDS prevention in Africa "the ultimate answer." Yes, but we must go further. What sort of prevention?
Between 1991 and 2002, Ugandans lowered our nation's HIV infection rates from 21 percent to 6 percent. Our practical prevention message has been called ABC (abstain, be faithful or use condoms) but "B" was the real pillar.
AIDS epidemics in Africa are driven by people having sex regularly with more than one person. Therefore, our main message was stick to one partner. We mentioned condoms only as a last resort. Condoms won't stop AIDS in Africa because fewer than 5 percent of people use them consistently.
Of course we need treatment and care. But to prolong one AIDS patient's life with antiretroviral treatment for one year costs more than $1,000. In 2007, 1.6 million people in sub-Saharan Africa died from AIDS -- and 1.7 million became infected with HIV. In Uganda, we have a proverb: "You cannot continue mopping the floor while the broken tap is still running." Every $1 spent on treatment is $1 unspent on effective prevention.
REV. SAM L. RUTEIKARA