AJE — AIDS: Fighting discrimination (VIDEO)

Via AJE:

As the UN marks World AIDS Day we ask if prejudice and ignorance is still rife regarding those living with HIV and AIDS.

Inside Story, with presenter James Bays, discusses with guests: Bernhard Schwartländer, director for evidence, strategy and results at UNAIDS; Lynette Mabote, the regional advocacy team leader for the Rights Alliance for Southern Africa; and Ju Wei Chen, the founding director of the AIDS Institute at the University of Hong Kong.


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  • Neoliberal plague: AIDS and global capitalism

    Battling AIDS means challenging the power of rich nations over the world’s resources, argues Hickel.

    Al Jazeera, By Jason Hickel, December 7

    Another World AIDS Day is behind us, and the usual spatter of annual reports and politicians’ eager promises continue to reverberate through the media. If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of the whole show at this point. After all, it’s 2012; we were supposed to have this epidemic licked by now. Why, despite billions of dollars’ worth of interventions and three decades of high-profile messaging, does AIDS remain such a pressing problem?

    This is particularly puzzling in the case of southern Africa, where close to 20 per cent of the adult population carries HIV. In Swaziland, where I am from, the figure reaches 42 per cent in antenatal clinics. These numbers are shocking in any context, but in light of the massive prevention effort that has been underway since the 1980s they truly boggle the mind. Clearly something isn’t working in our battle against AIDS.

    The anti-AIDS effort is failing because it fundamentally misperceives the problem. It starts from the assumption that the AIDS burden reflects a culture of sexual promiscuity, moral depravity and basic ignorance among Africans. This is why the primary AIDS programmes – the World Bank, UNAIDS and most NGOs – peddle “awareness” and “behaviour change” as the frontline solutions.

    Not only does this narrative carry obvious racist undertones, it’s also just not true: southern Africans are not ignorant about HIV/AIDS. In fact, statistics show that most of them are highly knowledgeable about it and often know more than their Western counterparts. The problem is that this knowledge doesn’t translate into behaviour change. A recent study shows that awareness “changes the behaviour of, at most, one in four people – generally those who are more affluent”. In other words, “behaviour change” programmes are failing at a rate of 3 to 1.

    This disparity tells us a lot. Wealthy people respond to awareness campaigns because their participation in risky sexual behaviour is voluntary. Not so with the poor. For them, risky sexual behaviour is generally compelled by structural factors beyond their control. In southern Africa, poor people are often forced to pursue labour migration and engage in transactional sex just to make a living. These are the key drivers of HIV transmission.

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