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U.S. group accuses Uganda of bowing to Bush's push for abstinence

U.S. group accuses Uganda of bowing to Bush's push for abstinence

On Monday, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch released an 81-page report accusing Uganda's government of shifting its HIV prevention approach to an abstinence-until-marriage focus and of discouraging the promotion of condoms. HRW's report charges that President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet, are being swayed by U.S. Christian conservatives, risking Uganda's widely touted accomplishment of maintaining its relatively low HIV infection rate, which declined from 15% in 1992 to 6% in 2002. "The political climate favoring abstinence-only approaches in Uganda, including numerous anti-condom statements by President Yoweri Museveni in 2004, also influenced schoolteachers to teach abstinence as an exclusive method of HIV prevention," states the report. "Mrs. Museveni has described abstinence-only approaches as a blend of African and Christian values and has used her position of influence to intimidate organizations that promote condoms to young people," it added. "We are promoting abstinence in order to please the U.S. so that we get more funds," said Rubaramira Ruranga, a Ugandan AIDS advocate. Ugandan and church officials denied the claim, saying the report was flawed and lacked any factual basis. "The president and first lady are being misunderstood," says Onapito Ekomoloit, Museveni's spokesman. "They have been consistent in advocating for a multipronged approach." That view was echoed by Alex Opio, assistant commissioner for National Diseases Control. "The government policy is A for abstinence, B for be faithful, and C for condoms for those who are high-risk," said Opio, adding that HRW's report may have relied on hearsay. Uganda imports 80 million condoms a year, said Vasta Kibirige, condom-monitoring chief at the health ministry. (AP)

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