Saturday, October 21, 2006

AIDS/HIV Conference

I went to couple of really good talks about the global AIDS/HIV epidemic today put on by Amnesty International and a host of student groups here at the UofC. It was really interesting to see the doctors and lawyers in the global fight and their extreme care for all the issues and then some local activists seemingly lack of caution. But the doctors at the conference proposed a problem that is beyond them right now and until it is solved there will be no end to the amount of money needed to solve the epidemic. Let me outline the situation.

Currently, medical data shows that very few methods are very affective at prevention of the spread of disease. In most the world the position of women have made them more vulnerable and unable to prevent contact with the disease. Examples that the doctors gave were in Uganda and India.

Uganda has had one of the largest AIDS programs in Africa for the longest time, but mostly it has been focused on an abstinence only solution. But still prevalent in the country is men with the disease who marry. Then it is virtually assured that the woman will contract the disease. Not to mention that a large number of the women in the county have been raped and contracted diseases this way.

In India, female sex workers and truck drivers are considered the prime transporters of the disease. There are a large number of sex workers from villages where making a living is quite hard. It is only a matter of time before the sex workers contract a disease from a trucker and bring it back to their village and so on and so forth.

Condoms are not really the answer in most cases because they are a male controlled prevention method. Doctors would like to introduce more spermocides and microbocides into use, but women will not accept these methods because they harm their chances of having a child. These women see having children as their mandate and will be worthless to their communities otherwise.

Now to the problem. How do doctors stop the spread of this disease when the only methods they provide go against the nature of women? Empowering women by denying their nature has worked quite well in American culture but is fervently rejected in the third world. What good is the science if no one uses it?

My one thought on this matter, for whatever it is worth, is that the prevention and treatment of AIDS with drugs is futile without the reduction of poverty. This would help reduce prostitution throughout the world and at least give women a chance to be economically free enough to have more options in their lives. One of the doctors pointed out that even if we have all the right drugs and money, it is still that people can't live in their culture in a normal way. And with all these problems we see AIDS becoming more and more a disease of the marginalized and its effects being ignored by the rich and powerful. At what point does the world wake up and address these social and economical rifts that are robbing the world of so many lives to AIDS?

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