Uganda Provides World Model for Fighting AIDS, Bush Says

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - President Bush praised Uganda for its handling of the AIDS pandemic, saying the East African country was leading the world in combating its spread.

"You have shown the world what is possible in terms of reducing infection rates," Bush told Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday.

He praised the country's achievement in reducing infections of the AIDS-causing HIV virus from 30 percent of its population in the 1990s to the present level of just over five percent. It was an example to be emulated across the world, he said.

The president appeared humbled when he met with AIDS patients at a clinic near Entebbe.

"It is one thing to talk about the scourge of AIDS, and quite another to see it up close in the face of victims," he said after visiting the clinic. "I've met generals [here] in the worldwide army of compassion."

Bush reiterated his pledge to spend $15 billion to fight AIDS in hard-hit African and Caribbean countries over the next five years.

Uganda is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa where the incidence of HIV/AIDS has dropped substantially.

President Museveni gets part of the credit. He came to power in 1986, restored political stability, and led an aggressive anti-AIDS campaign by encouraging HIV-testing, abstinence, and the use of condoms.

Development expert Rand Stoneburner says Uganda's prevention model, if used elsewhere, had the potential to reduce the AIDS rate in Africa's worst-stricken countries by 80 percent.

This is the same level of efficacy one might expect from an HIV vaccine, according to Stoneburner, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization epidemiologist.

Uganda has invested heavily in training health workers, setting up counseling networks and treating sexually-transmitted diseases.

While in Uganda, Bush held talks with Museveni centering on regional peace initiatives, security and trade issues, technology assistance and the continuing battle against AIDS, Ugandan minister for the presidency, Kirunda Kivejinja, said in a statement.

Bush also discussed the 17-year long insurgency in northern Uganda, perpetrated by a rag-tag but violent rebel group known as Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by a man who kidnaps children and says he is directed by spirits of the dead.

Last week, religious leaders in the north appealed to Bush in a letter to work to ensure the rebel group was not supplied with arms. Uganda accuses the government of neighboring Sudan of supporting the LRA.

The leaders also asked Bush to urge the U.N. Security Council to take up the conflict in northern Uganda as a matter of urgency.

They said the international community remained silent while "children die in the thousands in the conflict while others live in terror and trauma."

Late June, the U.S. provided military aid to Uganda to help the government in its efforts to crush the LRA.

See earlier stories:
AIDS Activists Fault Abstinence Model (July 11, 2003)
US Offers Support to African Country Fighting Oddball Rebel Group (June 26, 2003)

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