The fight against Aids cannot be won by relying solely on
condoms, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said at the
International Aids Conference in Bangkok on Monday.
Museveni, credited with slashing HIV infection rates in Uganda,
said that abstinence, loving relationships and marriage are even
more crucial than relying on condoms to halt the spread of Aids.
Museveni's comments on the second day of the conference echoed
those of United States President George Bush, but are at odds
with the views carried by the majority of researchers and
activists involved in fighting the disease.
Condom use has been promoted as a frontline defense in the fight
against Aids by countries such as Thailand where an aggressive
pro-condom campaign yielded a massive reduction in HIV rates.
Just before Museveni's speech, Tim Brown, an epidemiologist
tracking Asia's emerging epidemics told delegates that a number
of countries -- including China and Bangladesh -- face HIV
problems largely driven by prostitution. According to Brown
promoting the use of condoms is the most effective way to prevent
Museveni, however, said loving relationships based on trust are
crucial in the fight against HIV, and that "the principle of
condoms is not the ultimate solution".
He also told the conference plenary session: "In some cultures
sexual intercourse is so elaborate that condoms are a hindrance.
Let the condom be used by people who cannot abstain, cannot be
faithful, or are estranged".
Museveni, in a departure from the stance of some of his Western
supporters, said the concept of marriage should be flexible, and
that sticking with someone when a relationship turns sour opens
the possibility of an unfaithful partner bringing an infection
"Ideological monogamy is also part of the problem," Museveni
Uganda has waged one of the world's most successful battles
against the spread of HIV in a rare success story for sub-Saharan
It has enlisted religious groups to help spread information, and
pioneered a strategy that later became known as "ABC" or
"Abstinence, Being faithful, and Condoms" -- in that order -- a
policy backed by Bush. Critics have said promoting condoms should
be the first priority.
It has brought the infection rate down from more than 30% in the
early 1990s to about 6% of the country's 25-million people last
Last month, Uganda pledged to provide free generic Aids drugs to
the 100 000 of the country's 500 000 HIV-infected people who have
developed full-blown Aids -- a major theme of conference
delegates who want newly available generic drugs distributed more
About 25-million of the 38-million infected with HIV worldwide
live in sub-Saharan Africa, but the virus is increasingly taking
root in Asia, where almost eight million people are infected.
In Asia, the sex trade has been the main catalyst behind
infections in countries such as Thailand and Cambodia, where
epidemics exploded in the late 1980s -- sparking aggressive
responses including campaigns to boost condom use, said Brown, a
UNAids coordinator at the Hawaii-based East West Center.
Other Asian countries where the proportion of men who visit
prostitutes is lower will face the same problem -- but more
slowly, Brown added.
"The slowly evolving epidemics of Asia are very dangerous,
because they will grow steadily and silently," Brown said. He
added that Asia's epidemics are less likely to prompt aggressive
Brown said that a condom usage rate of roughly ten percent makes
China and Bangladesh potential hotspots for explosive epidemics.