Africa AIDS Ignorance

Dan Drezner and Preeti Aroon decry the woeful state of understanding of AIDS in Africa. Among the more astonishing examples is the president of Gambia’s claim to be able to personally cure the disease (along with asthma and diabetes) and the South African vice president — the former head of the country’s AIDS program, no less — telling his people that showering after sex virtually eliminates the risk. Moreover,

In Africa, many aren’t aware that condoms protect against HIV infection. Even if they are told, they also face anti-condom messages: Condoms are a conspiracy by whites to lower African birthrates; condoms are tainted with HIV to decrease the African population. On top of it all, traditional healers, tribal leaders, and the Catholic Church warn against using condoms. What is one to believe?

It’s astonishing that national leaders apparently know less about the disease than I did as a high school sophomore in 1982, when HIV was still being called HTLV-III and none of the current treatments were available.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. dave says:

    It is astonishing, but it is also something that people have a hard time talking about. Public discussions on safe sex and needle usage are rare in most (if not all) cultures.
    We (the west) need to make sure that we do everything we can to educate and aid people in Africa (in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals). I think that Bush has actually done some good things in this area, but more needs to be done.

  2. jeff b says:

    Really Dave? What good has the Bush administration done? They promised $15bn in aid to Africa but on the condition that AIDS programs switched from condom distribution and education to abstinence promotion. I don’t see how that’s helpful.

  3. dave says:

    That is a good point about the restrictions, but the first step is admitting that the world shares this problem, and we need to do something about it. Bush acknowledged that (which is good), then he hamstrung the whole thing by forcing the programs to be abstinence based. Hopefully the next president will increase the funding, remove the restrictions, and work to insure that the people who need help get it..