What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas

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What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas

Tyler LePard

This week, a Ugandan pastor was in Las Vegas giving talks about AIDS. Martin Sempa is a long-time AIDS activist who credits abstinence-only programs and Christian values (like fidelity and matrimony...not so much care for the vulnerable) for Uganda's success in the fight against AIDS.

Now you may be thinking: AIDS... International activist... wait a second - why wasn't he in Toronto at the International AIDS Conference? Oh yeah, it's because "hatred of motherhood and the family, a pathological fear of fidelity and sexual continence and loathing of traditional Christian values are the defining forces in the international fight against AIDS" - not a place for a guy like Sempa.

Avoiding Toronto because of expected hostility to his message, Sempa spoke from Las Vegas. Maybe you've heard of it? City of casinos, nude dancers, Elvis impersonators and quickie weddings, nicknamed "Sin City." Seems like kind of a funny place for a pastor to take haven from those wacky International AIDS activists and speak out about "Christian values" and preventing HIV, doesn't it?

This week, a Ugandan pastor was in Las Vegas giving talks about AIDS. Martin Sempa is a long-time AIDS activist who credits abstinence-only programs and Christian values (like fidelity and matrimony…not so much care for the vulnerable) for Uganda's success in the fight against AIDS.

Now you may be thinking: AIDS… International activist… wait a second – why wasn't he in Toronto at the International AIDS Conference? Oh yeah, it's because "hatred of motherhood and the family, a pathological fear of fidelity and sexual continence and loathing of traditional Christian values are the defining forces in the international fight against AIDS" – not a place for a guy like Sempa.

Avoiding Toronto because of expected hostility to his message, Sempa spoke from Las Vegas. Maybe you've heard of it? City of casinos, nude dancers, Elvis impersonators and quickie weddings, nicknamed "Sin City." Seems like kind of a funny place for a pastor to take haven from those wacky International AIDS activists and speak out about "Christian values" and preventing HIV, doesn't it? Well, maybe that's why he's there – to reach out to those in need. At least he's talking about AIDS.

Sempa claims that after abstinence and fidelity played significant roles in lowering the rate of HIV/AIDS in Uganda in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, an influx of "condoms and pornography" flooded the country in the mid 90s and raised the infection rate right back up again. The problem is that last part is simply not true. The rate didn't go up again – in fact, among some groups it continued to steadily decrease.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Sempa is partially correct – the decline can be attributed to delayed sexual encounters and fewer sexual partners – but in reality, it is also due to increased political commitment, awareness in social networks and education, as well as a significant increase in condom use. This successful comprehensive effort in Uganda is exactly what is advocated for by the scientists, researchers, activists, celebrities, and policy-makers in Toronto – the ones that Sempa accuses of "abstinophobia" and "matriphobia." He even attacks Gates for promoting condoms – advising that instead, Bill should talk about his marriage to Melinda.

Pastor Sempa is missing the point – about the Gateses, about comprehensive HIV prevention strategies, and about the ABCs (yeah, that's right – not just Abstain & Be Faithful, but Condoms too). We need to use everything we've got to combat HIV and the ignorance that perpetrates the disease.

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Toronto AIDS Conference