HIV: Are You Shitting Me?

Africa is the canary in the coal mine, folks. AIDS is an epidemic on that continent, and this Western perception of “it can’t happy here” is bullshit. AIDS was born there (arguably), it spread around the world, and it’s growing faster in Africa than any other place.
But it will continue its spread. Things will get worse. COUNT ON IT. The only weapon we have against AIDS is education, but we all know that ignorance is as epidemic as the virus.
More than 6,000 people die of AIDS each day on that continent, where 25 million people presently suffer from its wrath. In two years alone, the portion of adults in South Africa with AIDS jumped from 13% to 20%, from 1997 to 1999. There is no country in the world facing a greater threat from AIDS than South Africa, and ignorance of the problem has not disappeared.
In this BBC story from today, we see how a political power-broker in South Africa is accused of raping a woman known to have HIV, in which he did not use a condom. He instead showered after the encounter, believing that would negate the virus’s ability to infect him.
This is an “educated” and “successful” man, and he believes this shit. This is a continent in which education is nowhere near where it needs to be, where superstition and age-old cultural beliefs trump modern knowledge. A place where the Catholic Church (fuck them and the horse they’ve ridden in on) is still militantly campaigning to not have condoms distributed freely in an attempt to stave off the spread of AIDS & HIV, which some experts say might well have spread to a quarter of the continent’s population by 2020.
We in the West are far too ignorant of Africa’s problems. We like to think this disease’s problems will stay confined to the jungles and savannahs of the Dark Continent. But they won’t. In this day and age of world-wide air travel and international immigration, this disease is coming to a body near you, if it hasn’t already.
Educate yourself. Have protected sex every time. The few people I know with AIDS or HIV can tell me almost with certainty which encounter they believe caused it — calculated risk? Not so calculated, it would seem.
Test yourself and your partner, and demand to see the evidence, before engaging in “bareback” sex. I’ve never been promiscuous mainly because AIDS and HIV scare the living shit out of me. And rightfully so. The Dark Continent tells of a dark future for us all, if vigilance and education aren’t increased.
America is taking ignorance to new levels — allowing for states to have “opt-in” sexual education, like in Kansas, where if a student has not received a signed permission slip from a parent, they will not be taught sexual education. Ironic, isn’t it, when it’s the students whose parents won’t consent to such education who are most in need of it?
It’s time we put our so-called quest for morality away, and focus instead on educating ourselves about the possible transmission of this disease. Just the other day, some fuckhead politician in the States was talking about the transmission of the virus through tears. (Not likely to happen, Bubba.)
The topic of AIDS and HIV are ones I’m very passionate about. The ignorance of Africa as a problem on more levels than one is another I’m passionate about (one word: Darfur). But they depress me and I avoid writing about it, because I want to do it well, and to do it well means finding the facts and figures that can be used to shock awareness into people. I will, however, aspire to it over the coming weeks. It’s time people get their fucking heads out of their asses and learn about this. The spread of AIDS here in the West IS increasing as the spread of education has been reduced in the past half-decade or so. Teens are more ignorant than ever, and it’s the politicians’ faults. Women are contracting the disease faster than they ever have, and the dangers are not diminishing.
Use condoms. Always get tested. Be aware. Educate yourself. Never, ever touch blood without protection provided by latex gloves or what have you. Be vigilant. And stay uninfected.

8 thoughts on “HIV: Are You Shitting Me?

  1. PS

    My history professor once told me that Africa as we know it would be economically dead within 10 years and physically dead within 20 because of the HIV/AIDS crisis. That was in 1999, so while he might be a bit off in the numbers the time of his prophecy of sorts is surely coming quickly.

    Herbert wrote, “Fear is the mind killer.” More accurately: “Ignorance is the mind killer. Ignorance is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”

    You’re right, Africa and Darfur. Inspiring as a call to arms yet depressing as a service to remind you of how little your own indignation will accomplish. Have to hope that eventually too many people will become angry to let the world continue down these two (million?) paths of destruction.

  2. Justin

    A year ago I read an article in Foreign Affairs magazine examining the impact of HIV/AIDS on the government infrastructure of African nations. The article’s conclusion was that western governments needed to forcefully educate and medicate the continent to avoid the collapse of most governments there.

    The article said that something like 30% of all the bureaucrats and military officers were infected with HIV, in an environment in which it cannot be controlled effectively (and thus, prevented from becoming AIDS) with medical treatment. The end result is that over the next decade a large die-off of the most educated and well off will occur, leaving a vacumn of people who simply know how to run the country and keep the neighbours from invading.

    Effectively, without massive western intervention, Africa will revert to an almost pre-technological tribal era over the next 20 years.

  3. Esther

    It’s unbelievable that an educated man is so incredibly clueless. Then again, he’s not the first. President Mbeki at one point stated that: “it has not been proven that HIV causes AIDS” “AIDS is caused by poverty” “HIV and AIDS is a myth perpetuated by the Americans to stop Africans from having any more children”. He seems to have changed his attitude lately. The President of Swaziland wanted to have all HIV positive people branded, on the forehead, and put into concentration camps.

    Not all is bad. To quote the CDC Global AIDS Program website “Since 1992, HIV prevalence in Uganda has dropped by more than 50 percent”.

    I was part of an AIDS awareness campaign a while back. There were many reasons people just weren’t interested. Some of the responses we would get was “I’m too old to get AIDS” and “These condoms are to small for African men”

  4. James P.

    All I can really say is that there are a too many of people who need to educated on the facts (and too many who don’t really care.) Hell, I even got tested once just so a scared friend would do the same, thankfully the test came back negative. It wasn’t fun seeing her too scared to open the letter herself (nor hold her as she cried after.)

    I also think it’s just sick that there are people in my oun country who haven’t a clue as to the truth of HIV, and basicly any STD. If only a swift kick would dislodge their heads so they could see that any disease could care less if you’re a “good person” or not.

    People just nead to learn the truth and sadly, too many of them learn it the hard way because someone thinks doing so will just promote sex…

  5. Mad Coyote

    Well said, Steff.

    If I may be so bold, if Steff’s post has inspired anyone to activism, do a Google search on the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Mr. Lewis has done more and is doing more to fight the African AIDS epidemic than any other organisation, and more than any government. And he’s not a bureaucrat- he gets right in there in the slums to work with people. Definitely one of my role models.

  6. Matthew William

    There was also an article in yesterday’s New York Times (Wednesday, April 5th) regarding AIDS prevention. It talked about how the current policies are ambigous and made it hard to make AIDS programs acceptable to policy.

    “Some officials said that although activites to promote condom use are restricted, they did not undersand the distinction between condom education and condom promotion, causing uncertainty over whether certain condom-related activities are permissible”

  7. MsBehavn

    Phew Steff … I’m going to have to either write an essay in your comments or devote an entire post to this topic over on my blog.

    As a South African, I’ve been following the Jacob Zuma rape trial with morbid fascination. But he’s not the only high-profile politician to dazzle us with his brilliance: We have a Minister of Health who believes that garlic is a cure for HIV and our State President does NOT believe that HIV causes AIDS … poverty does!

    Pretty damn scary stuff but a great post from you. xoxo

  8. scribe called steff

    (I’m not commenting on everyone’s comments because they’re all too well-written with too much insight in their own right, and I’d have to go on and on and on to tackle my thoughts about them.

    Suffice to say, I’m glad the posting provoked some thought. Sometimes I’m surprised what people will comment on, and I wound up shocked at how many comments I got on the erectile dysfunction posting, and thought this posting as well would be largely uncommented on. I was wrong on both counts.

    Great stuff. Thanks for acknowledging my post, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and thanks for agreeing that, in my humble opinion, this might well be the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times.

    Personally, Africa is the land I’ve always wanted to see — from top to bottom. Morrocco is a dream of mine… as are Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. It breaks my heart to know that when I finally get there, tragedies will probably still abound, despite the positive strides some places are making on that continent.

    The West MUST intervene. I hate to refer back to the old prejudist, imperialist comment of “We must save the Africans from themselves,” but for once, that narrow-minded statement might well be true.

    Rock on, people.)

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