That's a line from a song by an African (Malian?) singer with AIDS. He uses his songs to get the message out, as do many musical artists on the African continent these days. Governments hide from the spread of HIV/AIDS so as to avoid the wrath of conservative Western nations who preach abstinence to the exclusion of condom use. And you what? Some guy (oh, so articulate today) said it best (and I paraphrase); "Abstinence is their culture, and they can't solve our problems by imposing their culture."
How is this so-called "aid" from the West helping? It's not. It's drives the problem underground and renders on-the-ground agencies ineffective and unable to do anything. If they hand out condoms, they lose funding; but they see that "Don't have sex and you'll be safe" is not a message that young people (carrying the largest rate of infection) are listening to. And in their case, it's not a matter of Hollywood tearing apart traditional values in the name of titilating and grabbing the audience's attention to sell, sell, sell! I'm going to bet that, in this "500 channel universe, Africa is grossly under-represented. Mauritias was the highest African ranking I could find at # 91 on a global ranking with 209.586 TVs per 1,000 people. This, versus the USA with 740.53 TVs per 1,000 people, ranking them at #3 (Canada is #6 with 655.388 per 1,000 people and the #1 ranked country is Bermuda with 1,009.71 per 1,000 people, accoring to NationMaster.com).
The AIDS crisis in Africa is not going to be solved by the G. W. Bushes and Popes of the world (to use two of the higher profile figures) parachuting in with a stop-gap that will turn the tide any more than Ozzy Osbourne is going to cause millions of youngsters to try to bite the heads off bats by doing it at a concert. It just doesn't work that way. I think groups (NGOs, etc.) and countries that want to have a real impact on stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa have to work within the culture first educating them about all kind of prevention; first the extra-corporal kind such as condoms so that those who see extra-marital and promiscuous (both a mode of activity and a moral judgement) sex as part of their cultural heritage will have the tools to protect themselves and others; then we can teach the individual choices that are fool-proof and 100% effective, such as abstinence and faithfulness to marital partners (another Western judgement).
So, disagree. Or continue to feel helpless. But there are two effective things you can do.
- Protect yourself.
- Start talking: to politicians, friends, the media, and anyone you can get your hands on. Ask them to start funding the HIV/AIDS fight in Africa -- all parts, not just the moral bits.
If you're interested in other ways to get involved, check out the website of Stephen Lewis. He's Canadian, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. You can also read more about the man here.
And with those sobering thoughts, I must hie me to a Christmas party. Yes, it's Christmas here in Canada. But do they know it's Christmas in Africa?
Wait. Wrong cause....