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Rough Cut
Uganda: The Condom Controversy
AIDS and the abstinence debate
 

 

Daniele Anastasion

Daniele Anastasion is a documentary filmmaker based in Washington, DC. Her work has led her to Madagascar, Zambia and most recently Uganda in her first report for FRONTLINE/World. She currently works for National Geographic Television.

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Length: 8:35

"You must learn how to say no," booms Ugandan evangelical minister Martin Ssempa. "Say 'I do not want to have sex. I have chosen not to have sex.'" So begins this week's Rough Cut, which looks at the controversy over U.S. funding for AIDS relief in Africa. We meet Ssempa, preaching to a classroom of students in Uganda's capital, Kampala. He's among a growing number of voices in the country who are teaching an abstinence-only approach to combat the spread of HIV.

It's a message with roots in the United States, where abstinence-before-marriage campaigns surfaced in the early 1980s, mainly among Christian evangelical groups. The issue became more politicized in 2003, when President Bush pledged $15 billion to fight the global spread of AIDS, the biggest single contribution from any nation.

Although the package was praised for its scope, it also brought controversy. The pledge, which took effect under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), stipulated that a third of the money assigned to prevention be used to promote abstinence-only programs and that promoting condom use should be restricted to high-risk groups, such as sex workers and truck drivers.

For AIDS-prevention organizations working in the developing world, it was unwelcome news. Groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) had plenty of documented evidence that teaching safe sex and promoting condom use had been successful in preventing the spread of the virus, especially among the young. "Uganda is gradually removing condoms from its HIV/AIDS strategy, and the consequences could be fatal," warned Tony Tate, a researcher with HRW's HIV/AIDS program and coauthor of a 2005 study on the effects of AIDS prevention in Uganda. "Delaying sex is a healthy choice for young Ugandans, but youth have a right to know that there are other effective means of HIV prevention."

Democrats were also rattled, fearing that America's war on AIDS was heading down an increasingly conservative path. In June, Democrats in the House voted down the abstinence-only provision; and in early July, the bill moved to the Senate, where Dianne Feinstein (D) and Olympia Snowe (R) introduced the "HIV Prevention Act," with no provision for abstinence-only programs. Many believe President Bush will veto the laws if they are passed.

Where this wrangling in Washington leaves Uganda and other African nations fighting AIDS with U.S.-government funds is not entirely clear, but Uganda is a stark example of shifting ideologies at work.

The Case for Uganda

In the early 1990s, President Yoweri Museveni was seen as a new breed of African leader, someone willing to aggressively confront the epidemic. Following wide-reaching and candid health education programs, HIV/AIDS cases among adult Ugandans dropped from an estimated 15 percent in 1992 to roughly 6 percent by 2004. (You can read more on Uganda's broad-stroke approach in the background feature.)

But in the same year, Museveni did a public about-face, declaring war on condom use and promotion. Billboards advertising condoms were replaced by messages celebrating virginity. Condom ads disappeared from radio, and the country's leading condom brand was recalled amid claims of defects.

To find out how these changes affected a country once heralded as one of Africa's AIDS-prevention success stories, reporter Daniele Anastasion traveled to Uganda to talk to all sides in the abstinence debate. Her research took her to religious leaders, youth counselors, health workers and the office of Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni, a born-again Christian and longtime abstinence campaigner, who, many say, is at the heart of the country's newfound evangelical fervor and anti-condom stance.

In her report, Anastasion says that the premier's wife "recently staged a virginity march in Kampala, and, on World AIDS Day in 2004, called for a national census of virgins."

She also reports that some Ugandan AIDS programs are no longer promoting condom use for fear of losing their funding. The United States is the single largest donor to AIDS prevention in Uganda and much of the aid is dispensed through religious-based groups.

For Ssempa and others, the problem isn't just about morality but about different cultural values. "The Western perspective toward AIDS prevention is largely a result of the '60s; faith is a very low value," he tells Anastasion. "In Africa, 80 percent of the people are peasants. They're largely traditional. They're largely religious. And the model that supports them to fight HIV/AIDS is different. But there's this one-size-fits-all that's being put on us -- more condoms, more condoms, more condoms."

Ssempa believes that you can't promote condoms and abstinence at the same time; it's just too confusing to young people. Instead, he urges them to stay pure before marriage.

Whether it's religion, money or a combination of the two moving AIDS prevention away from "safe sex" to "no sex," the changes in Uganda are becoming apparent.

"In the first two years since the U.S.-funded focus on abstinence," Anastasion reports, "Uganda's rate of HIV infection has nearly doubled."

--Jackie Bennion

Editor's Note: Daniele Anastasion was hired by Population Action International (PAI) to film in Uganda. She subsequently licensed some of this footage to create our FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut, presented here. The license from PAI gives her complete editorial control and exclusive copyright for this segment, subject to FRONTLINE/World's final editorial and artistic control.

Update: On September 6, the Senate passed the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which waives the abstinence-until-marriage earmark for PEPFAR in 2008. The President holds discretion over whether or not to honor this, but the Senate has now joined the House in calling for the waiver.

REACTIONS

Tyler A - Allen, TX
This video to me, comes as no surprise. While it's unfortunate that in the United States, religious lobbyists push Abstinence-Only legislation that leaves our youth unprepared, in places like Uganda with such high HIV rates it is disgustingly negligent. Here, teen pregnancy and STD infections are a problem, but not to epidemic proportions; but Uganda is gripped by an AIDS epidemic--one much more severe. Religious groups and our religiously influenced government have pushed policy that has likely killed thousands. What a travesty.

patricia menyha - malm, sweden
I thnk it's absurd not to promote condom use. It not only protects against HIV but also aginst ssexually transmitted diseases. We have to be realistic that abstinence will not work in Uganda .It is not working elsewhere. The most important thing is to educate the people and they themselves decide what to do once informed. I am sure that once given all the possibilities the young ones will get the message and choose eventually to wait. Howvever, not all have that strong will and those too have to be cared for. I would advocate for promoting steady partners and against mutiple patners. Educate the people so that they make the right choices in their lives.

Hilary Holcomb - Boise, Idaho
Remaining a virgin until marriage only works to prevent the spread of AIDS if BOTH sexes are equally committed to the cause. Unfortunately, women are held to standards of sexual purity that men are not. What good will it do a new bride to enter the marriage bed as a virgin, if she consumates with an HIV infected man? And what of the risks to the potential children of such a union?
Abstience is certainly a fine virtue, but not a very practical approach to the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Hyde Park, New York
Great piece, very well made. I must say that I am in firm disagreement with the idea that abstinence is the best way to go in curbing HIV infections in Africa. It is just too unrealistic. A teenager is a teenager is a teenager, regardless of where they live. I say this because I do not think it is reasonable to believe that a teenager will be abstinent just because they have a signed a piece of paper saying that they would. More than this, it really angers me that it is always religion that pushes how money is spent and which plan is used, not science and logic. I do not blame the Ugandan leader for taking the action he did, he needed the money to help his nation. I put the blame squarely on George Bush and all the Christian organizations in the States who deem it their right to tell people to follow religious dictates rather than scientific ones in this fight. It bothers me that religion is even a part of this. I am a staunch believer that if Reagan and past presidents did not listen to the likes of Jerry Falwell...the world would not be in the mess it is today in regards to AIDS.

Claudette Wilson - Raleigh, NC
I like the ABC method. I forgot the B, but A was abstain and C was for condom. So it's best to abstain, but if you're going to have sex then you MUST use a condom. I don't know why we can't have both! So that the abstinence people can preach abstinence, but still be realistic and say that CONDOMS are better than nothing if you're going to have sex. They also prevent single mother and fatherhood.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
"B" is for be faithful.

Kathleen Wills - Washington, DC
Excellent piece. Eye-opening. Just another example of bureaucratic, faith-driven narrow-mindedness, arrogance and incompetence -- on the part of two administrations, one in Washington, the other in Kampala. More people should be aware of what is going on -- so that we can put a stop to this kind of unrealistic, coercive appropriation of U.S. foreign aid. The situation is not unlike what we faced here in Washington, D.C. for years. Our city council voted for a needle exchange program to help combat the spread of HIV, yet a Republican Congress, with oversight over District affairs, stepped in to prevent such a program -- in a city where the HIV infection rate among black women, particularly, rivals that of many third-world countries.Thank God a Democratic congress reversed the ban. IV drug users in the District will have access to clean needles through a needle exchange program -- like those operating in many of the home states of senators who previously voted against one here.Such high-handed, coercive policies on the part of wrong-headed, smarmy, Bible-driven public officials is sickening -- literally, and deadly. They are morally indefensible, callous, unrealistic and just plain stupid.They don't work and harm those they purportedly aim to assist.Again, an excellent piece that deserves broad exposure.

- Columbia, SC
Well done presentation of an issue that needs more exposure. This is an excellent documentary and highlights the need for comprehensive and pragmatic HIV prevention programs.

Daniel Firger - Quito, Ecuador
This is a great piece of documentary journalism, and an important and timely reminder of how ineffective U.S. foreign policy under Bush has been, not just in Iraq but on issues of global significance like AIDS that don't make the front pages every day. Great work.

Alexis Blavos - Hudson, Ohio
Abstinence only education has proven itself in the research to be ineffective. It is educational mal-practice for the country of Uganda to promote abstinence only education without the "plus" i.e. safer sex education and the like. This is scary, scary stuff in a world that is being claimed by our ignorance and prudity.

(anonymous)
Good video. Promotion of abstinance is good, but there are far too many challenges and circumstances that surround sexuality, and these make especially the young people vulnerable.A choice to abstain is the best but to many it may not be adopted over-night.We live in a wold of alternatives."A" is best,and it comes first, but let people know that there is also "B","C" and now"Circumcision". The fight against HIV/AIDS has worked best if it comes as a package.

Winnie Kang - Arlington, VA
Promoting abstinence alone means that nobody already infected can ever have sex. This is totally unrealistic, and the doubling rate of new infections in Uganda reflects the horror of this misguided notion. The ABC plan, "Abstain, Be faithful, or use a Condom", was much more effective and realistic and resulted in a drop in rate of new infections. We should return to that plan. I hope this video airs on TV for all to see.

Laurie Walden - Columbia, SC
I was surprised to learn that Uganda is facing the same controversy that we're confronting here in South Carolina and in the U.S.: whether sex education should focus on encouraging abstinence or condom usage. This documentary clearly shows that the "abstinence only" approach has resulted in dramatically higher rates of HIV infection in Uganda. It appears that the "ABC" approach was the most effective one.

Homer, Alaska
Disturbing. Beautifully filmed. Thought provoking. Sad. Thank you.

Toronto, Ontario
I was aware that President Bush had recently committed a large sum of money to HIV/AIDS work in Africa, but I had no idea that such a large portion of the money was going towards promoting abstinence alone. This film has the potential to inform the general public of the real-life results of projecting western conservative morality onto another country and culture.

Gina LeVeque - New York, New York
This is a thought-provoking piece that gives the viewer all sides of this controversial issue. Excellent, compelling story-telling and coverage.

Washington, DC
Well done! The US and Ugandan government should not intertwine HIV prevention efforts and social mores. Whether or not people choose to be abstinent, they should know about prevention and have access to contraceptives. Abstinence should be a choice, not an obligation. Of course HIV rates increased when the people recieved decreased access to condoms!

Goshen, Inidana
i think that a lot of the spread of AIDS/HIV has to do with the women and children getting raped by the LRA. I have been to Uganda and have seen how things are there first hand. All of the children are very scared they have lost there mothers and they have been through things that you and I could not imagine going through. I think that you need to shed some light on the majority of the AIDS/HIV spread. Its not all choice sex

narda randria - antananarivo, madagascar
What I've experienced is that not having sex doesn't kill you. It may frustrate you but when you can't afford paying a prostitute or if you can't comply to your girl friend's request (money) then don't have sex. It's that simple. If you are in such a predicament, just say "I'm frustrated but alive."

(anonymous)
"You must learn how to say NO!" The speaker is trying to get people to understand that it is alright to say no to sex. The speaker did something that really made an impression on me, he says that if someone is forceful towards you to make strange noises, and then the speaker demonstrates and the audience loves it.

Pastor Martin Zempa has been fighting to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and has even burned condoms on the University campus in Kampala, because he promotes abstinence. In 1997, 15 percent of Uganda's adults had HIV and by 2003 it was six percent, but to him condom use doesn't work.

In the early 90s, President Yoweri Museveni promoted a strategy called ABC: abstain, be faithful or use a condom. I agree with this program and think that it is a really good idea. Although, others disagreed and virginity marches took place and people called for a national consensus for virginity.

Bush gave $15 billion to help fight AIDS through PEPFAR (Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which was more than any nation in history. This money went to programs that support abstinence. The US ships condoms to Uganda, but only to those high risk groups -- all others can be abstinent. I believe that being pure is a good health practice. I am happy to see that a lot of people in Uganda support strategies to stop infections.

With the help form US Christian Groups, the US First Lady's office can hold workshops at high schools where children can pledge that they will stay virgins until marriage. Most kids signed the cards to be funny and some were not virgins that signed the cards.

Although the US has helped fund HIV prevention, new HIV cases have started rising and more people are at risk, and the money coming in isn't doing a lot to help. Therefore, there is controversy. I believe if everyone could get on the same page about either using condoms or being abstinent, then Uganda could eventually see a decrease in the number of HIV cases.

Jackie Pilecki - Hollywood, FL
I am looking for proof that condom distribution could not be a sin.

Sydney , Austrailia
Abstinence based interventions are madness. When will we learn this insanity is killings thousands, potentially millions. Eneough!!

Luwi Keri - kampala, Uganda
Stop your nonsensical propaganda. Long before Bush came in power, abstience was in the heart and culture of Ugandans. Even the ABc approach is Uganda's idea that the west has molested with their influence peddling in the affairs of sovereign nations like Uganda.
As a matter of fact, America through USAID adpoted ABC after Ugand's succes story.So stop deceiving the global village with your selfish and inhuman ideologies.It is a wast of great intellectual capacity. Our approach in not Abstinence only as you allege. In fact this is it;Abstain until marriage but if you are promiscuous, don't be foolish not to use a condom copectly and cositently. AAs you focus on condom promotion ion the frontline, you must account for the death of millions of lives due to condom marketing. Asd for us, we do condom education.We are better of without you.Nontheless, you can change your mind and join me in the cool abstinence world. IT WORKS ALL THE TIME.

(anonymous)
Guys it is unfair for you to think that condoms are the solution to us. I live in Uganda and have been here all my life. I am 23 and I have been abstaining, and I am excitedly looking forward to marrying my fiance who is also abstaining. It works all the time, we are not worried of not being able to have a family because of HIV. Stop making this look like any other disease. It kills badly. You have not seen it do so. I have. Condoms have lied to us. By 2004 there were millions of condoms in Uganda, and then they were declared fake. How many people died because of using fake condoms, as they trusted them? Ugandans abstained and were faithful and were able to reduce HIV rates. Tell me a country in the world that has done the same using condoms. Stop being able to not understand the simple facts, because you think being pure and not having sex is not cool. It is cool in Uganda. I am a virgin and I am happy, and I know so many people who are grateful they abstain, and will be able to contribute to our country's development before they die young. We love our country and we shall abstain. Take away your condoms.

Connie Smith - Marioh, Ohio
Morality protects the people. Rules I teach my children are not because I am mean but put in place to protect them.I believe abstinence, when embraced by a culture, will benefit the people greatly. The sanctity of marriage has been lost in the U.S.A. and our families are suffering greatly for it. The 1960's have cost us too much as a people.Free love has not been free at all no matter how the media spins it.

C B - Oklahoma City, OK
This is a very slanted piece. If you look at the facts alone, President Museveni promoted the ABC program (with an emphasis on abstinence) and the HIV infection rate dropped. This is an AFRICAN program that has been proven effective not only in Uganda, but now in Thailand and Kenya as well. It is an indigenous solution and I think it's fantastic that President Bush isnt pushing American values and "knowledge" on these people. He is just supporting them in their own efforts to rid their people of the virus. Also, there is no such thing as an "abstinence only" program as so many people are stating. It is an ABC program. Fidelity and Condoms are also receiving American money, not just abstinence. If 33% of American-pledged money is going toward Abstinence, then much much more is going toward condoms. Thank goodness for people like Martin Ssempa and President Museveni who (despite American prejudice) are doing what's best for their people.

Paul Malboeuf - Woonsocket, RI
When I was young at 20 years old - the Air Force sent me to Thailand in 1967 & I served one year there. VD & STD's are spreading like a Wildfire. Everyone is responsible for himself or herself.... Anytime you go to prostitutes- you are in grave danger of getting a Venereal Disease of some kind....My sister worked as a nurse in the Mid 80's on a young girl dying of full blown AIDS at the tender age of 19 years old. She started having sex at 12 or something like that... My eldest daughter is a PH.D. in virology & immunology & she says that they cannot find a cure.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I can not believe that George Bush had the audacity to put the American name on a program that overtly pushes religion. It's hard to understand how the leader of a nation that is supposed to stand for freedom of choice and religion thinks it's ok to oppress the freedom of others. It makes me disgusted to know that a country of such influence and power contributed to the rise of AIDS in Uganda instead of the decline.

Christianna - Cridersville, OH
This story is a real eye-opener to how badly various places around the world need help. If individuals would remain faithful and wait for marriage, the country would most likely have a way lower HIV rating. I commend those who are promoting those who are saying "wait for marriage"!

A Leonard - Washington, DC
Excellent non-dogmatic reporting. Clearly something is wrong if the number of new HIV infections is increasing, not decreasing.

Luchiam Noysattsanna - Gainsville, GA
The truth is that giving people condoms is going to encourage them to have sex. This is bad. I don't want my kids having sex! I know that AIDS is terrible, but saving souls is more important. Hell is forever.

Andrea Johnson - washington, dc
Straightforward and well-told story. It's outrageous public policy by governments on both sides of the ocean, in my view. I hope the USG is using concrete indicators like infection rate to track the (lack of) success of programs like PEPFAR.

Arlington, MA
This is a very powerful piece that sheds light on the fact that PEPFAR's mandate, driven from Washington, fails to acknowledge the socio-cultural factors that fuel the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the developing countries where they channel funding to fight HIV/AIDS. In particular there is a blatant disregard for the fact that in most of the contexts where PEPFAR operates, women have no say in their sexual relationships (See the WHO Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women) and it is ludicrous to preach abstinence in these settings. Despite the damage being done, and the major setbacks its ideology has caused, PEPFAR continues to impose this narrow-minded, "Christian" ideology on the countries it is supposedly trying to help combat HIV/AIDS.

Denver, CO
History will show that President Bush is the most undemocratic president that we have ever had. He is egotisticaland thinks that his beliefs should be everyone's beliefs. God help the Ugandian people to see the light and offer choices again to help in the AIDs crisis.

Baltimore, MD
What is unchristian about preventing HIV in people who "sin"?

luis albertson - washington, dc
Thank's a lot! I am a Frontline addict! Even though I am not an expert in the field of comunications, I do believe you have a captive audience because every piece that you broadcast or put on your web site has an investigation behind it that supports what you say [unlike other TV programs].

michael hammerschlag - Moscow, Russia
Bush's focus on abstinence is nothing short of criminal religious fanaticism and has killed hundreds of thousands. How many deaths from this and Iraq will be laid at his ignorant feet? Probably more than a million eventually.http://hammernews.com/contempt.htm

Eric Skaar - St. Paul, MN
This is an excellent short documentary on how the PEPFAR program has failed to capitalize on recent gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Thailand, like Uganda, dramatically reduced its rate of infection through government sponsoprship of condom use. Thailand continues to make gains in that regard, while Uganda has fallen back because of PEPFAR and misguided leadership. One additional aspect of PEPFAR that should be mentioned is that the drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS patients purchased with PEPFAR funds are done at exhorbitant rates. Through the PEPFAR bill the Bush administration is repaying its corporate pharmaceutical campaign contributors by purcahsing their expensive drugs instead of buying generic brands at a third of the cost. Thus, thousands of lives that could be saved with treatment are sadly being lost for political payback. Very good documentary!

Alpharetta,, Ga
It's high time someone told people that it's fine to be a Virgin, that abstinence is the way to go. Condoms don't always work, and not having sex at all always does. I firmly believe in abstinence until marriage.

anonymous - Charleston, SC
I am very impressed by this well thought out article and video.I commend the talents of this writer and producer. The article and video are insightful as well as evenhanded. The interviews are gripping. I hope to hear more from this young lady!

David Bryden - Washington, DC
In the text accompanying the video there is the statement that the US House has "voted down" the abstinence and fidelity funding requirement. This could lead people to think that what the House has done, and which the Senate is likely to do soon, would actually fix the problem addressed by the video. In fact, it would not, and our organization tried to make this clear in a statement -- posted on our website, www.globalaidsalliance.org
The change passed by the House, and we likely be passed by the Senate, simply gives the Bush Administration the option of waiving the spending requirement, and only for 2008. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which it would exercise this option. In fact, prior to the House vote the Administration made it clear in writing that it was opposed to Congress giving it this flexibility.Even if the Administration did excercise this option of waiving the requirement it would only affect the proportion of funding going to abstinence programs. It would not affect the content of these programs. The change passed by the House does suggest that prevention programs must be based on scientific evidence, but the Administration could simply say in response to this that it believes there is evidence that its policy is working. There is no requirement that they present some sort of proof or adhere to the results of an independent review.The passage by the full Congress of the change passed by the House is still important. It would give Congress and advocates more momentum to really fix this aspect of US policy. But, people need to understand that it's quite likely the funding requirement would continue even if this is passed by the full Congress.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Thank you for your analysis of recent legislation. You are correct that the provision in the bill passed by the House of Representatives (HR 2764) only partly addresses the concerns of those opposed to the abstinence spending requirement. The bill authorizes President Bush to
waive the earmark requiring that one-third of HIV prevention funding is spent on abstinence programs. There's no guarantee that the president will exercise this option if passed by the Senate. We will be following these movements over the coming months, so please check back for updates.

Halifax, NS
Great piece and thank you for presenting it. Very sad however that it will never receive the kind of wide viewership it deserves and needs to really raise mass awareness and perhaps facillitate some kind of change. PBS is a fantastic medium for bringing quality material like this to our attention, but I fear it is like shouting into the wind when one considers what the "public" today chooses to pay attention to and value. Apathy, willfull ignorance, and a pre-occupation with the mundane, are seemingly the order of the day judging by the popularity of reality tv shows and other such "quality material" on network and cable channels.

(anonymous)
The video and article were insightful. I feel, however, that they both did not do justice to the current situation in Uganda. The report seems to come across as pessimistic and skeptical towards the historical progress made through Uganda's AIDS prevention. Their moral methodology is obviously disagreeable to most of western liberal media and culture, but nonetheless, we should feel obliged to applaud any nation that so bravely combats an epidemic with such effervescence. And the question begs to be asked, would it be that evil to prescribe this kind of proven, formulaic moral-medicine to other nations devastated by AIDS?

Baltimore/Kampala, MD/Uganda
Recently in Uganda voluntary adult male circumcision was found to decrease the risk of acquiring HIV by >50%. Circumcision is the OTHER 'C' in the ABCs of HIV prevention for Africa, but there has been little progress in scaling up circumcision efforts (despite the fact that circumcision is safe, and that over 70% of African men are uncircumcized). If we had found a vaccine which provided 50% protection from sexual acquisition of HIV, there would have been excitement and mobilization around the world! Yet here we have a one-time surgical 'vaccine' that, when coupled with the other ABCs (one must still use condoms, for example) could prevent 5.7 million new cases of HIV infection and 3 million deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa over 20 years. This is AMAZING good news, so why isn't the world acting?

andrea sommers - weston, florida
Excellent piece. So well filmed and presented. Brings the issue home from all three perspectives--western political, Ugandan elite and Ugandan peasant. The facial expressions and views from inside the Ugandan world are beautiful.

Alameda, CA
Wow! Another catastrophe being caused by GW. The country needs to know about this!

Asheville, North Carolina
What a great, concise piece. It's easy to see issues like this as values disputes that can't be resolved, but as these 8 minutes make clear, the science-based approach...shows simply: abstinence alone doesn't work, ABC does. No one should be able to ignore science when lives are at stake!

Paterson, NJ
This message is never more relevant than it is today. We have been subjected to the limited and shortsighted policies of the current administration overseeing relief efforts both domestic and abroad, yet this does not mean we have to accept them. These programs are short-sighted and limited, propagating fundamental inadequacies in the treatment of those most needful of attention. This documentary sheds a necessary light on the hypocritical preachings of 'aid to Africa' guised in ideological brainwashing of the most vulnerable and at risk, rather than the most sensible teaching of prevention and protection.

Caitlain S - Fort Lauderdale, FL
This is absolutely stunning. I knew PEPFAR was a travesty, but I had no idea to what extent it was doing damage.There is no telling how many lives the current administration is responsible for destroying in this manner. We're actually KILLING people to promote an ideological agenda, and Christian organizations are helping accomplish that. I'm not sure how these people can in good conscience call themselves "Christians."Just.....mind boggling.

(anonymous)
This is a nice summary of the issues around abstinence only education in Uganda, and points to the greater issue of choosing HIV prevention strategies based on politics rather than proof.

DC, DC
The new ABCs of Uganda have become Anything But Condoms and that is sad as portrayed from this great film.

San Francisco, CA
This is a very important piece. I'm so glad I got to see this on the web. I hadn't realized that the rate of HIV infection [in Uganda] had doubled in the past few years. What a scary thought!

David Weisberg - Albuquerque, NM
Excellent. Another piece of the troubling larger picture of religious fundamentalism and politics standing in the way of humane science.

jacqueline - Douala, Cameroun
Your testimony on the prevention of the transmission of the virus of the HIV in Uganda is very edifying. It is a controversial subject ... On an individual level, I share completely the point of view of Mrs. Museveni. For Christians, the bible clearly defines the framework for engaging in sex and thus preaches sexual abstinence before marriage. Spiritual maturity is not acquired by the waving of a magic wand. Christians must wait a long time before acquiring it and during that period they are very vulnerable in all the aspects of their life, including on the sexual level. Knowing the devastation and personal drama suffered by those who live with the HIV/AIDS, while recommending sexual abstinence to all young people, I do not hesitate to insist on the use of condoms , because in moments of weakness it becomes too difficult to refrain. I am confronted with this sad truth when I speak to girls of 15 and 16 years of age who are earning money as prostitutes. Not being able to give them work that enables them to earn their living with dignity, I doubt that the evangelical message in isolation can help them ...This post was translated with Babel Fish.Votre tmoignage sur la prvention de la transmission du virus du VIH en Ouganda est trs difiant. Ce sujet est un sujet controverse ...Sur un plan individuel, je partage totalement le point de vue de Mme Musoveleni car pour les chrtiens, la bible dfinit clairement le cadre dans le quel doit se faire une relation sexuelle et prne donc l'abstinence sexuelle avant le mariage .Malheureusement, la maturit spirituelle ne s'acquiert pas d'un coup de baguette magique ; et c'est a le drame .Certains chrtiens doivent attendre longtemps avant de l'acqurir et pendant cette priode ils sont trs vulnrables dans tous les aspects de leur vie y compris sur le plan sexuel ; Connaissant les ravages et le drame personnel de ceux qui vivent avec le VIH / SIDA , tout en recommandant l'abstinence sexuel tous les jeunes , je n'hsite pas insister sur le port du prservatif lorsque dans des moments de faiblesse s'abstenir devient difficile. Tous les jours je suis confronte cette triste ralit lorsqu'il m'arrive de parler de jeunes filles de 15 - 16 ans qui se prostituent pour gagner de l'argent. Ne pouvant pas leur donner un travail qui leur permet de gagner dignement leur vie , je doute fort que le message vanglique seul puisse dans ce contexte les aider ...

(anonymous)
The situation in Uganda is so clouded by ideology. The success that was accomplished in terms of decreased HIV infection was either the result of ABC or faith-based programmes depending on who you ask. What I do know is that here in the developing world, like everywhere else, there is no evidence that abstinence-only programmes work and they may in fact cause more harm than good.Shame on the powers that be for the imposition of their religious and moral worldviews on an entire people in the form of aid money and at the expense of so many lives. Is this the new colonialism?

(anonymous)
Really great work. We need to expose the backward agendas of these pseudo political leaders. It is amazing how their misinformed actions can create much strife in many nations around the world. This documentary should help to strengthen the case for addressing the challenges of HIV and more importantly our Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

- washington, DC
Well done! An excellent short capture of an important issue. And another example of religious values getting involved where they shouldn't. Not to mention the unwanted pregnancies prevented when condom use was promoted as well.

yacoub mohamed - cincinnati, ohio
Very good work. I liked the clarity of the message. The awareness of the gravity of the danger is very palpable and that is reassuring in many ways. Daniele Anastasion has done a great job in focusig on the main concern which is: what should the international society do to prevent the AIDS from being <> of this era. Keep up the good work.

- Washington, DC
This piece is extremely important because it illuminates an aspect of PEPFAR funding of which the general public might not be aware. It also shows that we should be paying more attention to the people who are actually affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic rather than policy makers who are making decisions based on votes and special interest groups.

Scott Swenson - Washington, DC
It is shocking that Congress just passed more funding for abstinence-only programs in the face of such clear failures. Learn more at RHRealityCheck.org

McLean, Virginia
This story does a very good job of showing the cultural and religous differences which make combining sincere efforts to eradicate diseases in both advanced and developing countries so difficult.

Arlington, VA
Very fair and even-handed approach to a difficult issue...and certainly shows that the Bush administration is more interested in exporting values-based morality than evidence-based science.

(anonymous)
Wonderful film and narration. Clear and level headed reporting.

Linda Carvell - Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Daniele presents a thought-provoking examination of the misguided promotion of abstinence over evidence to the contrary. The people interviewed are no doubt sincere in their views but the abstinence advocates are unfortunately medieval in attitude if not opportunistic in their desire for Bush financial aid.

Boulder, CO
I think this is a skillfully produced piece of the utmost importance. When people attempt to solve a problem with methods that are clearly ineffective at the expense of methods that are proven effective, it begs the question, what is their goal in the first place? I initially applauded PEPFAR, but on closer examination I wonder if President Bush is using my tax dollars to fund AIDS prevention activities, or the dissemination of beliefs that I do not support. This piece is a potent reminder for people to maintain informed views about US policy and its effects at home and abroad, no matter how benign or mundane an initiative may seem.

Chris Fields - Miami, FL
Thanks so much for this story and the introduction. It just goes to show how the faith-based values of the Bush Administration are reaching far beyond U.S. borders. Clearly abstinence-only isn't working for Uganda and religious ideology attached to aid dollars makes the U.S. look like just the sort of crusading zealot it accuses of others. Sugar-coating it as relief aid doesn't make the politics behind this any more savory.

Vineeta Gupta - Washington, DC
Not only a great movie but an important message! U.S HIV/health policies often lack effective input from the people who will bear the direct impact of those policies.
Thanks Daniele!

Columbia, South Carolina
Very well produced program. Impressive reporting, important message, superior photography.

Washington, DC
This is a very thoughtful piece. It's another example of problems created when religion is allowed to replace evidence and reason in determining policy. And unfortunately the consequences are so severe when it comes to AIDS.

(anonymous)
This excellent video will be useful in my class on HIV AIDS impact in Africa.

Gregory Rogove - Brooklyn, NY
Anastasion's piece is poignant and engaging. It is loaded with helpful information and imagery. It's a story that needs to be told - not only for our awareness of current African issues but also for our knowledge of the Bush Administration's convoluted foreign policy.

Columbia, SC
This is an important video. Important because of its controversial message, but also important because it gives publicity to the voice and opinions of Ugandans who are often not given the public attention they deserve in matters concerning their own political issues. Thank you for making this available.

Arlington, VA
Great story, and pretty balanced for such a divisive topic. It's nice to see that there are clergy out there like Canon Gideon who can stay tolerant about sex.

Washington, DC
AIDS might be the first pandemic we will face. I am alarmed that proven methods of prevention, i.e. condom use are taking a back seat to abstinence teaching. What makes anyone think this will work? The teaching of abstinence has never been 100% effective in preventing a host of problems. I think it should be included in the fight to prevent the spread of AIDS but not to the detriment of the most effective means to do so. Thank you Frontline World for airing this very important message.

Michael Anastasion - Columbia, SC
It was a very interesting piece. I noticed that Daniele mentioned the rate of infection had doubled during the past few years. If abstinence alone could reduce the rate of infection, I could understand why the US would support faith based groups for HIV prevention, but studies have shown that condom promotion is the most effective way to combat HIV. It's easy to see what needs to be done, unfortunately the faithfull are often blinded by the light.