Kenyan First Lady Lucy Kibaki told high school students last week not to use condoms, urging them to practice abstinence as protection against HIV and AIDS. Speaking to female students in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, on May 18 Kibaki said, "Those who are still in school have no business having access to condoms. Those who are in university and are not married have no business having condoms in their halls of residence."
Aside from the fact that her message directly contradicts Kenyan government policy promoting condom use, what the hell is Kibaki smoking? According to the Agence France-Presse reports quoted in this BBC story, AIDS or HIV-related illness has taken the lives of 1.5 million Kenyans since 1984.
Kibaki's dangerous words put her in the company of Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni, who supports an abstinence-pledge campaign for youngsters in her country, where, according to the International AIDS Society, 12 percent of annual deaths are AIDS related.
HIV/AIDS activists are naturally having a cow, telling the BBC that many Kenyan kids are sexually active by the time they're 14. "In Kenya, even a youth who is 12 years old knows what sex is," national coordinator of the Kenya Network of HIV-Positive Teachers Elsa Ouko said.
Kibaki's comments are particularly repellent in light of the fact that she chairs the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS, a group that our own first lady, Laura Bush, addressed in September. And while it's rare that I've thought, much less written, a sentence like this, I have to say that Kibaki's comments were so screwy that they make Bush's invocation of the flawed, abstinence-heavy "ABC" approach to AIDS prevention sound, well, practically enlightened by comparison: "The successful ABC model of HIV prevention that was pioneered in Africa is most effective when both partners are on an equal footing. ABC stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, and correct and consistent use of Condoms. When women are respected and have legal protection in their community, they have more of a chance to adhere to the ABC model, and more of a chance to convince their partners to adhere to it, as well."