Zimbabwe: Thought Embargo at HIV Inc to Continue Indefinitely

17 Aug

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

The Zimbabwean health minister, David Parirenyatwa, has exposed his complete ignorance about the country’s HIV epidemic by claiming that there is ‘rampant homosexuality’ in prisons, and that this is making an especially large contribution to high rates of HIV transmission in these institutions.

Naturally, there are some men who have sex with men in prisons, and not just in Zimbabwe. But that is not just because men are more likely to have sex with men when incarcerated for lengthy periods with men, denied conjugal visits and other rights. It’s also because having sex with someone of the same gender can itself attract a prison sentence.

However, what the health minister fails to realize is that there tend to be very poor health services in prisons. If he had inspected health services in prisons he would have come to a very different conclusion. Indeed, had he inspected health services outside…

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‘African’ Sexuality: Consensus or Prejudice?

12 Aug

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

An article by Damien de Walque, entitled ‘Is male promiscuity the main route of HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa?‘, seems curiously behind the times. He refers to the “pervasive if unstated belief in the HIV/AIDS community…that males are primarily responsible for spreading the infection among married and cohabiting couples”.

Disturbingly, de Walque goes on to conclude that, because women are as likely as men to be the infected partner in discordant relationships (where only one partner is HIV positive), both male and female promiscuity must be the main route of transmission. This is by no means the only possible conclusion; far more women than men are infected with HIV in high prevalence African countries, but this could be a result of other risks, particularly non-sexual risks.

However, women being almost as likely as men to be the infected partner in discordant relationships was not a new discovery when de Walque was writing in…

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UNAIDS Becomes UNAZI – Focus At Last?

7 Aug

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

UNAIDS reached 20 and became 21 without anyone really noticing. HIV prevalence had peaked in some of the worst affected countries by the time the institution was established, but many epidemics had only just begun.

For example, HIV prevalence in South Africa was very low in 1990, probably less than 1%. Along with several other southern African countries, prevalence rocketed for much of the following 10 to 15 years, eventually making this zone the worst affected in the world.

HIV epidemics tend to concentrate in certain zones, rather than in certain countries. A large area in southern Africa constitutes one of these zones, taking in much of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia and parts of Mozambique and Malawi.

But some zones are not best described by national boundaries. The areas surrounding Lake Victoria, for example, make up another zone, bringing together a large proportion of the HIV…

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Institutionalizing Violence Against Women (and Men)

5 Aug

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

It is not news that injectible Depo Provera (DMPA, a hormonal contraceptive) doubles the risk of HIV negative women being infected, and doubles the risk of HIV positive women infecting their sexual partner with HIV. Nor is it news that injectible Depo is mostly used in developing countries, and among non-white people in the US. Therefore, it tends to be used in places where HIV prevalence is higher, and among populations with higher prevalence in low prevalence countries.

Why use injectible Depo when this is well known? Defenders of the product claim that using it cuts other risks, such as unplanned pregnancies, particularly among HIV positive women. They feel this mitigates the risk of transmitting the virus, or of becoming infected. Strange logic, but such is the mindset of the HIV industry, and those who (very strenuously and aggressively) defend the use of injectible Depo.

If various NGOs, public health…

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18 Reasons for Decriminalisation of Sex Work

5 Aug

1. The Amnesty International consultation group found that sex workers face high levels of stigma and discrimination in a criminalised environment.

2. Placing “criminal status” on sex workers through a myriad of laws compounds that prejudice against them.

3. Sex workers face shame and marginalisation by police, friends, family, employers and providers of public services due to this “criminal status”.

4. Segregating sex workers through legislation sets sex workers apart from communities.

5. This segregation places them at odds with police and increases the risk of violence against them.

6. Future employers will not wish to hire sex workers who have been labelled as “criminals” by sex work legislation.

7. Sex workers are stigmatised as being spreaders of HIV, which discourages them from seeking assistance from sexual and reproductive health information and services.

8. Behaviour of nurses and other medical professionals prevent sex workers from going back to the health…

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Paying for Sex and Paying for Chastity: All the Same?

2 Aug

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

Offering money to young girls in return for an undertaking by them to have less sex, or to take precautions against infection with sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy, strikes me as inherently contradictory. If you want to make money out of your body, what difference does it make whether you achieve that by agreeing to have sex, or by agreeing not to have sex?

Imagine you wish to make money in these ways: you have clients who pay you to have sex; and you have clients who pay you not to. The two types of client are perfectly compatible. Instead of making eight dollars a day (100 Rand), week or month, you can make sixteen, or you can use the payment as leverage to charge some clients more, or as a subsidy to charge some less.

These ‘conditional cash transfers’ seem to be based on a number of assumptions. For…

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Depo Provera and Circumcision: Violence Against Women Masquerading as Research

2 Jul

Don't Get Stuck With HIV

Although there are plenty of instances of institutionally sanctioned violence against women, this blog post is about two very prominent instances: mass male circumcision programs [*Greg Boyle, cited below; one of the most up to date publications on the subject, which cites many of the seminal works] and the aggressive promotion of the dangerous injectible contraceptive, Depo Provera (DMPA).

Why are mass male circumcision (MMC) programs instances of violence against women? Well, three trials of MMC were carried out to show that it reduced female to male transmission of HIV. They were show trials, with the entire process monitored to ensure that it gave the results that the researchers wanted. These trials have been cited countless times by popular and academic publications.

Less frequently cited was a single trial of MMC that was intended to show that it reduced male to female transmission of HIV. None of these four trials were…

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