Cablegate: The a-B-C-D of Aids -- Nigerian
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001748
STATE FOR AF/PD, AF/W, AF/RA, IIP/G/AF, IIP/T/G
USAID/W FOR AFR, G/PHN (DELAY)
DEPARTMENT PASS TO IBB FOR VOA (ENGLISH TO AFRICA
SERVICE, HAUSA SERVICE)
EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES FOR PAS, POL, ECON,
E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: KHIV KPAO OIIP SCUL NI
SUBJECT: THE A-B-C-D OF AIDS -- NIGERIAN
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS WANT MORE ON "A,"
ABSTINENCE, AND MORE ON "B," BE FAITHFUL
1. SUMMARY: Nigerians who focus on the HIV/AIDS
epidemic use A-B-C-D (A-Abstain, B-Be faithful,
C-use Condoms, OR D-you Die) as a mnemonic device
with target audiences. Sixty activists and
program leaders -- Muslim and Christian -- who
attended one of the two two-day workshops in
Kaduna and Lagos with U.S. Speaker Rev. Eugene
Rivers listened with rapt attention and growing
enthusiasm to his presentations on the U.S.
experience with faith-based programs that promote
abstinence and fidelity. They unanimously asked
for more focus, more programs, and more tools to
promote the "A" and "B" in the formula --
abstinence and fidelity.
2. Attending all of the sessions at the workshop
in Lagos was the First Lady of Cross River State.
A Reuters cameraman from Abidjan taped some of
Rivers' presentations in Lagos for a possible
segment on "Sixty Minutes." This is a GPRA
report. END SUMMARY.
3. The PAS sections in Abuja and Lagos organized
two-day workshops for visiting U.S. speaker
Boston-based Rev. Eugene Rivers, pastor of the
Azuza Christian Community and co-chair of the
National TenPoint Coalition. AIDS activists and
program leaders, with a strong representation of
pastors and imams, gathered in Kaduna on June 3-4
and in Lagos on June 6-7. The programs --
"Faith-Based Approaches to Combat HIV-AIDS: Focus
on Abstinence and Fidelity" also provided an
excellent introduction to the Bush
Administration's initiatives with faith-based
programs. The sessions were attended by every
invitee, with not even one no-show.
4. Rivers, an energetic and convictional teacher
who alternates between the languages of the
university classroom and the pulpit, first framed
the HIV/AIDS epidemic in an unaccustomed way,
avoiding polite circumlocutions. It is a "sexual
holocaust" that will produce 40 million orphans
and untold social disruption across the continent
unless radical changes in the behavior that
communicates the disease -- he bluntly called it
"promiscuity" -- occur, especially among African
men who exploit the continent's women and girls.
Newborns infected with AIDS may be a new
5. In Rivers' view, the epidemic is not simply
medical. It is also a human rights issue: men
who infect women are committing fatal violations
of their human rights. And it has a moral
dimension because the behavior that will reverse
the rise in HIV/AIDS incidence -- fidelity in
marriage, abstinence before marriage -- must be
grounded in deeper understandings of human
sexuality, dignity, and respect. Faith
communities, he said, are best positioned to
teach the underlying values that can change
6. Each audience -- mostly Muslim in Kaduna,
mostly Christian in Lagos -- had issues to dispel
before Rivers could get to the heart of his
program. In the north, the chairman of the
Jaamat Nazrili Islam used his welcoming remarks
to re-air the rumors that the AIDS virus had been
developed in U.S. labs and say that it was
necessary to understand the true origins of the
virus before deciding on how to approach the
epidemic. He also said "the U.S. has never
officially denied this." After the PAO
emphatically stated the denial for the record,
explaining some of the Cold War disinformation
that set the rumor in motion, Rivers suggested
that dwelling on the origins of disease was a
distraction or excuse that could only delay the
immediate imperative -- to deal with the
epidemic. Delay would cost many more lives.
7. Other audience members said the way to end
the epidemic was to attack its true "root causes"
-- poverty, or the status of women, or crushing
external debts, or lack of education, for
instance. Rivers agreed that all these issues
must be addressed, but he said there was no time
to wait for root causes to be solved. This focus
was a distraction or an excuse for no action.
The immediate prospect of death for so many
millions required immediate, direct action.
(In Lagos, participants told Rivers that the
current rumor circulating among young people is
that the U.S. wants to use the AIDS epidemic to
keep Africans from having sex. Rivers urged all
the participants to fight this rumor. Young
people who acted on it would only increase the
risks of their own infection and death.)
8. Some participants voiced doubt that the
experience of a pastor in a U.S. inner city was
relevant to the different circumstances of
Nigeria, but Rivers deeply impressed them with
parallels. Both countries confront the ubiquity
of upfront sexuality in popular music and
culture, the absence of fathers that can foster
inappropriate and risky behavior in adolescent
daughters and sons, and generational
discontinuities that pull children away from
traditional norms that were still strong during
the upbringings of today's adults. He strongly
urged the participants to "dialog with the
culture" and learn how to communicate with young
people if they are to be successful.
9. Joining the workshop in Kaduna during a
session on its second day was Dr. Danny McCain,
an American faculty member in the Department of
Religious Studies at the University of Jos. (All
primary and secondary students in Nigeria take
"Christian Religious Knowledge" or "Islamic
Religious Knowledge" as a required course.) The
Religious Studies department at the university
trains teachers in these subjects for primary and
secondary schools. The Muslim and Christian
faculty at the Department worked together to
develop two exactly parallel AIDS awareness
syllabi for high school religious studies
classes. The learning outcomes and lesson
sequences are identical for both the Christian
and Islamic syallabi; the only difference is the
references to verses in the Bible or the Koran.
McCain shared the faculty's commitment to
education for abstinence and fidelity as the
behavioral premises of the program.
10. Materials provided by Rivers for the
conference were all new to the participants.
They included the 1999 four-part series on AIDS
in Africa that ran in the Boston Globe; the
recent New Republic article ("Uganda v. Condoms:
Sex Change," by Arthur Allen, issue of May 27,
2000); and The Seymour Institute report,
"Recommendations for Addressing the AIDS
Holocaust in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1/2002." The
IRCs added more material, including the Heritage
Foundation 5/2002 report on abstinence programs
that research has proven effective in reducing
sexual activity among young people.
11. The final sessions of the workshops were
devoted to brainstorming. The Nigerian
participants proved eager to: begin developing
awareness campaigns and workshops; develop
community-based non-academic approaches and
materials; train trainers; develop effective
communications; and put together an advocacy
network to promote abstinence and fidelity.
12. In addition to the workshops, Rivers held
media roundtables in Lagos and Abuja. The
National Television Authority and Federal Radio
Corporation of Nigeria aired spots of the Kaduna
session -- one ran seven minutes. Reports were
printed over the weekend in two newspapers -- The
Guardian (establishment, Lagos) and Al-Mizan.
The latter is a radical Islamic paper published
in Zaria that circulates to Mosque congregations
on Friday. The report of the Rivers program was
the first favorable report on the U.S. in the
newspaper in recent memory.
13. At a dinner with Rivers, the Methodist
bishop of Kaduna confessed that he has never met
an AIDS patient, and the dinner table
conversation about the coming crisis of millions
of orphans in Africa was the first time he had
considered this need for enlarged social work.
(He said the two Methodist orphanages in Nigeria
have a capacity of a few hundred, and it is
already a financial challenge to maintain them.
To his knowledge, these are the only Christian
orphanages in the country.)
14. "Sixty Minutes" arranged for the Reuters
office in Abidjan to send a cameraman to tape
Rivers' initial workshop sessions on Thursday,
June 6. The cameraman did not interview Rivers,
the participants, or any Consulate staff. Action
for this project at "Sixty Minutes" is Dana
15. GPRA data:
RESULTS: Excellent. Participants rated the
workshops as highly successful and left full of
information and energy to strengthen the
"abstinence" and "be faithful" portions of their
own programs. The fortuitous attendance of Dr.
McCain allowed them to be updated on one Nigerian
effort that is already underway. Fresh materials
provided by Rev. Rivers and the IRC added new
knowledge and perspectives. The participation of
Muslim and Christian leaders, focusing on a
common problem, was an additional positive
dimension of the program.
DATE: June 3-7, 2002, FY 2002, third quarter.
MPP UMBRELLA THEMES: Health
AUDIENCE REACHED: Sixty HIV/AIDS activists and
program leaders drawn from both Nigeria's north
and south. Attending all the sessions in Lagos
over two days was the First Lady of Cross River
NON-USG FUNDING: N/A.
QUALITY OF U.S. SUPPORT: Excellent. Thanks to
William Peters of IIP for making travel
arrangements for Rev. Rivers on short notice.