Monday, August 14, 2006

WHY MOSTLY US?



The XVI International Conference on HIV/AIDS 2006 in Toronto, Canada has started. Over 24,000 delegates across the globe are in Toronto to plan, evaluate and discuss policies, politics, freak economics etc. The first reflection that comes into my mind is when will this conference go back to Africa where it is believed to be a fact that almost half of the people infected with the virus live? Is someone telling me that Africa has no capacity, in terms of resources, to host a conference like this one? Mmmh!

When HIV/AIDS comes into spotlight,
Africa walks just too close to every word of it. HIV/AIDS is almost, by big mistake, not a global problem but an African problem. HIV/AIDS has a black face, so say many activists. I agree with them. It then comes as a no surprise when Canadian PM, Steve Harper chooses to ignore the importance of joining hands with millions of people across the globe plus thousands of international delegates and prove to the world about his government’s commitment to fight the war that to me it worth every minute, every dollar, every political move and above all, it worth every inch of humanity! While the organizers have called his non-show up a political blander that will cost “Steve” more than he can imagine, I am disappointed and angered by his decision.

From the look at the calendar of activities that I have on my lap, I can easily tell that this is not a
political picnic like G8. There are people who are committed into raising awareness to above the roof, making sure that right policies are discussed and set, making a huge step towards availability of a vaccine if not a better treatment across the globe. Easy access to the drugs, for the people already infected by the virus remains a crucial part of “why they meet”.

As we know, HIV/AIDS is now 25 years old, same age with
Grammy –winning artist Alicia Keys who showed up at the Rogers Centre this Sunday alongside other remarkable figures like Bill and Melinda Gates, Hollywood actor Richard Gere and many more. Inside last 25 years questions have been pondered, scientific answers have been suggested, millions of dollars have gone into research (more is still needed) but yet a needed destination (cure) has not been reached. While respecting and eagerly waiting for a scientific breakthrough, I want to keep asking myself few questions. Why is HIV/AIDS keeps much of its interests in Africa, among African/black people than other human race? Is poverty the only reason; is it true that polygamy among African Muslim cultures in Africa the very reason? Are the researches telling us the truth or exaggeration of its own kind, as it has always been when Africa is put into context? Is the virus that infects millions of people in Africa different from the one in developed countries? Is it not mainly spread via unprotected sex? Is it spread differently in Africa then? Is sex not all that here in North America for example? What is wrong then?

The questions WHY seems to have eluded the minds of many fellow Africans. We have agreed, with no further questioning, the reasons given by almost 25 years old research findings. Have these facts remained the same even after so many years? If it’s our habitual problem, what are we doing to end it? If it is the psychological drama of being baptized “victims” from the beginning, what are we doing about it? Could it be that other lives reality like low self-esteem, remaining chains of psychological slavery and colonialism, unending war on racism etc be our killer reason than just unprotected sex? What would we find underneath if for once, we started thinking in reverse from what we are used to? What if its not poverty, its not cultural practices, it has nothing to do with polygamy? There are of course millions of questions with hard to find answers.

Therefore when the theme of this year’s conference is “Time To Deliver” I suggest its time to re-start again to find some new answers on the question WHY MOSTLY US AND NOT OTHER RACES?

5 comments:

Sibala's Corner said...

Jeff,

To me, the same questions are applied for AIDS as for malaria. What accounts for Africa’s special circumstances? What does the disease do to economic growth and poverty? And what must be done? The answers are similar, but as you hinted,they have one important difference: as of today there is no solid explanation for why Africa’s AIDS prevalence is at least an order of magnitude higher than anywhere in the world.

The simplest answer, widely believed, is that in Africa there is more sexual activity outside of long-term stable relationships. The data, however, repeatedly cast doubt on that widely believed hypothesis. Perhaps the sexual networking is different in Africa (for example, there are more relationships between older men and younger women and more concurrent relationships, although not more lifetime partners). Perhaps HIV/AIDS is transmitted more easily in Africa because the population has other untreated ailments (malaria, other sexually transmitted diseases), or because men are much less frequently circumcised, or because condoms are less frequently used in casual sexual relations. Perhaps the viral subtypes (clades) are different in Africa. The truth is that nobody is sure. The only certainty is that HIV/AIDS is an unmitigated tragedy and a development disaster throughout Africa, especially in the hardest hit regions of eastern and southern Africa.

I think, in order to understand and overcome poverty and disease crises facing Africa today, it is necessary to unravel the interconnections between extreme poverty, rampant diseases, unstable and harsh climatic conditions, chronic hunger, and inadequate food production.

Scout said...

aids in africa is similar to aids in gays where polyamorous , unprotected sex is common. but like native indian populations who are part of continuued genocide , like all indigenous populations, aids never became a 'big problem' until it hit white, middle class western society.

this is similar to the problem of crystal meth use...this vile drug has been around for a long time in 'poor' cultures like indigenous, hispanic, and 'white trash'. it wasn't until it was hitting middle and upper class white schools that it was recognized as a rampant problem.

cerainly in first nations we have many problems to overcome from oppression and mistrust. the millions who died of smallpox wasn't just a case of 'catching' the disease, it was common place for colonizers to give infected blankets on purpose, which were then taken back to the tribe....very similar to ant poison where the ant who ate it goes back to the colony and spreads the sweet poison around.

then there was the eugenics program of the 20's and 30's that saw involuntary sterilization of indians and other 'undesirables' like disabled or retarted people. combine that with the horrendous torture and rape of residential schools and it's not wonder you don't catch a lot of th elders in a doctor's office.

even younger aboriginals are very mistreated in many hospitals. the likes of the winnipeg surgeon who added beads to a native woman's stiches as a joke is a prime example of colonial mind set still in practise today.

so how do we rise as nations of people and overcome our mistrust so safe sex is utilized, because until aids becomes as rampant in middle class heterosexual north america as it is in africa, we are simply not going to see enough money going for research.

you hit a bit of a mark when you mentioned low esteem. the structure of tribal ways of pre-contact africa, north and south america, polynesia, australia are important to bring back if we are to survive.....and we will.

reclamtion of holistic ways (even for whites, who's ways were whole before christian conquering) means more then health, it means outright survival.

Scout said...

http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2006/08/15/aborig-aids.html

Annamarie said...

Your question is very good and should be asked as a starting point in looking for answers to this terrible disease that is so disproportionately affecting the poor of Africa.

Sibala and Scout make some valid points. Much to think about and consider. In searching for answers, all factors must be examined, and a concerted global effort must be made to eradicate AIDS. Poverty, hunger and lack of education are some issues that must be included.

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