Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Africa - US 'harming' Uganda's Aids battle

Blares this BBC headline with "harming" in scare quotes. Why would that be? Because Stephen Lewis, "The UN's special envoy on fighting Aids in Africa", never used that word. Nor did he accuse "the United States of endangering the gains Uganda has made in containing the disease."

You might infer that and then you again you might not. Since the BBC does not quote Lewis you can safely infer that Lewis never said any such thing. But it fits conviently into the BBC's anti-American bias.

Lewis may be unhappy about Uganda's policies but it's a leap to make the claim that the US is "harming" Uganda's Aids battle.

His [Lewis] remarks follow a report by US health campaigners saying the country was facing a condom shortage.

Later in the story the BBC note the campaigners in question are the US-based Center for Health and Gender Equity. The CHANGE organization have long opposed Bush's policies. This is from their mission statement:

The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization focused on the effects of U.S. international policies on the health and rights of women, girls, and other vulnerable populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We believe that every individual has the right to the basic information, technologies, and services needed to enjoy a healthy and safe sexual and reproductive life free from coercion and preventable illness.

In other words, give us your money and we'll decide how to spend it.

So what is the US policy on how the money should be spent?

Acquisition and Assistance Policy Directive. Note this is a pdf document.

PROHIBITION ON THE PROMOTION OR ADVOCACY OF THE LEGALIZATION OR PRACTICE OF PROSTITUTION OR SEX TRAFFICKING (JAN. 2004)None of the funds made available under this agreement may be used to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution or trafficking. Nothing in the preceding sentence shall be construed to preclude the provision to individuals of palliative care, treatment, or post-exposure pharmaceutical prophylaxis, and necessary pharmaceuticals and commodities, including test kits, condoms, and, when proven effective, microbicides.

Seems pretty clear the US position is that it doesn't want its money spent on "promoting or advocat[ing]" prostitution and goes further to ensure money is not witheld for condoms.

In another article from the BBC we are told there are problems with the condoms themselves.

But after recent concern about the quality of the condoms, the ministry is now giving out far less and is sending condoms abroad for testing as it tries to acquire machines for checking condom quality locally.

But what is one of the root causes of Aids in Africa? Again from the BBC article we are told:

But the majority of young Ugandans do not make it beyond primary school and in a country where most people live on less than $1 a day, the link between poverty and sex is strong.

Rogers Kasirye works in the slums of Kampala with street children and teenage prostitutes. Poverty has forced many of them into taking risks.

"It is an economic problem. Many of the young people we are working with are surviving on sex, and the only option or barrier they have is the condom."

The Ugandan health ministry has been giving out about 80 million condoms a year, free of charge.

One of the root causes of poverty in Africa are corrupt dictators.

Condoms are one tool in the fight against AIDS as are education and abstinence. Ridding Africa of corrupt dictators should be another.

Doesn't the US have the right to have some say in how its money is spent? Just last week The BBC ran an article with this headline: "Uganda 'mismanaging' Aids money".

The UN itself has a long history of corruption and mismangement of money on a massive scale. The current UN oil for food scandal is probably the largest scam in the history of the world. As a result the days when America simply wrote a blank check to the UN are over.

Some people seem to be suggesting that the US should just blindly throw a ton of money at the problem in hopes that some of it will stick or at least a trickle will reach its intended target.

Whether you agree or not, in the face of widespread corruption and mismanagement, America has decided to exert more control over how its money is spent. Surely they have that right.

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