During this last week or so I’ve been reading about the history of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. The international charity Avert has an excellent webpage which discusses this and how strategies such as the ABC campaign helped to significantly reduce the rate of HIV infection.
This ABC campaign started in 1987 and encouraged people to Abstain from sex and to delay the age at which a young person first has sex or Be Faithful to a lifelong partner and if you are unable to do these, then use a Condom.
The good news is that some 25 years later the most recent AIDS survey shows that more than 9 out of 10 women and 8 of every 10 men can still tell you that remaining faithful and using condoms are the best ways to avoid becoming infected with HIV.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said at the recent AIDS 2012 conference in Washington:
Let us not forget that the condom remains the cheapest and highly effective method we have to stop the spread of HIV… It is time for all of us to condomize!
However this same survey also shows that during the last 12 months for those that had more than one partner, only 1 in 8 used a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse. Condoms can be very effective but only if used correctly and consistently.
So it seems that Public Health professionals cannot solely rely upon people behaving as they know they should and we cannot rely solely on the correct and consistent using of barrier methods such as condoms. We need to combine these together with biomedical methods of prevention such as earlier treatment of those already infected, treating more of those who are infected, treatment for the non-infected partner in a discordant couple, eliminating Mother to Child transmission and voluntary male medical circumcision.
I enjoyed reading an article about this same issue by Andrew Green in Voice of America last month.
- Uganda Aids Indicator Survey 2011 – Preliminary Report (suubitrust.org.uk)
- In Uganda, HIV Prevention No Longer Just ABC (voanews.com)
- 1 in 13 Ugandans are HIV+ and Reactions to my SMC Post (suubitrust.org.uk)