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AIDS in Africa

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? I'd be much more fond of some people if they would simply stay away entirely... let's just say that I have recently been reminded of the old adage about not being able to choose one's relatives. Do people change over time? It's very hard to tell if I'm any different than I used to be, and I don't see other people changing much, so I am inclined to believe that they don't, or if they do it is very subtle and gradual.

It's a bit of a pity, really.

What to rant about... I haven't been keeping up with my usual media streams, being on vacation and having guests to entertain. It would be impolite, to say the least, to rant about them. So I'll do what I always used to do on deadline, and look at the paper.

Oh, lovely. A front-page article on how African leadership is just starting to consider not denying the continent is having an AIDS epidemic. Wow, it's only been a couple of decades, and how many people dead, with infection rates that boggle the mind. 4 million new cases annually? That's almost ten times the U.S. infection rate, and they spend less than a quarter fighting it than we do.

The problem with AIDS is that it takes so long to kill people, to put things most brutally.

Hm. Part 3 of 4. I have been a bit out of touch.

According to the article, people know the risk factors, but don't take precautions, and no one will talk about it. The Catholic Church, as usual, dithers—it certainly doesn't want to recommend that people use condoms, which might be seen as condoning birth control, so they haven't been doing anything. The article includes some commentary on the taboo nature of sexuality as a discussion topic in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and the fact that male leaders, who want to be seen as virile, are reluctant to suggest that maybe a Real Man shouldn't have more than one sexual partner at any given time.

I always wonder about information like that. How much is true, how much reflex reaction by American media to portray Africa as a haven for ignorance, for behaviors we consider primitive?

This is of interest to me, since I just read Emily Martin's Flexible Bodies: The Role of Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (whew). This is required reading for the class I'm taking this quarter, "Cultural Studies of Technoscience" (is that a great name or what?). She spent a lot of time with AIDS patients while researching the book, in which she explores how the idea and metaphor of the immune system has permeated the American mass consciousness and spread to areas of our lives that are not strictly medical, such as business.

I wonder what the average Ugandan (with or without HIV) thinks about the immune system?

I really should change the name of this section to "Rambling."

Emily Martin might posit that, consciously or unconsciously, America has determined that the African failure (as a society) to fight off the epidemic is indicative of unfitness for survival; in their adherence to traditional sex roles and behavior patterns, they are manifestly not demonstrating the flexibility that is the Holy Grail of modern America. She might have a point. We certainly don't seem to be doing anything to help them.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson