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Friday 9 February 2007
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HIV/AIDS Ownership: Erasing the sins of the father

Dear Diary,

Of all the negative things I've come to associate with my father never having been a good parent, my HIV-positive status always took the lead.

This is not surprising, especially with research reminding me of the power that fathers could have in educating their children about issues on violence, drugs, sex and HIV/AIDS.

A national survey in the late 1990s by the US-based Kaiser Family Foundation among children aged 10 to 15 found that fathers had a stronger influence than mothers on how their kids -especially boys - perceived such issues.

Yet, around the globe most men are still unwilling to come out of their sanctuary of non-involvement and share with women the tasks of preventing new HIV infections and caring for those already sick.

So, difficult as I find it to voice my hate for a parent, it must be acknowledged that some sins of the father are unforgivable.

Once, when I was still too young to grasp the concept of divorce, I asked my mother why my father no longer lived with us, and she said because while anyone could father a child, it took an especially strong man to be a good dad and role model.

I never really understood what this meant, but after being diagnosed with HIV some years ago, her words made me realise that few issues of international concern relate more directly to gender inequality than the AIDS pandemic.

In her book, 'AIDS Africa: Continent in Crisis', author Helen Jackson blamed gender inequality and male inaction against AIDS on the ideals of manhood that include strength, courage and dominance, still prevalent in many cultures.

And with this knowledge having been brought to light, shouldn't we now be seeking answers to question like: How can the father figure actually figure in the battle against this pandemic? Can men change? And how can we measure that change?

Although taking place at a snail's pace, some AIDS lobby groups have already started advocating that men be taught, during their formative years, to take equal responsibility for safe and healthy sex when the time comes.

Campaigns such as Engender Health's 'Men as Partners' initiative in South Africa, and Mongol Vision's HIV/AIDS Project with the military in Mongolia, have shown that men can be receptive to changing their attitudes on gender, and that their behaviour need not be fixed or resistant to change.

The World Food Programme (WFP) also recently indicated that in Ethiopia and northwest Tanzania an increasing number of men were taking the lead in WFP-supported training initiatives as anti-AIDS educators.

However, this is just a drop in the ocean, and it goes without saying that many more projects like these still need to be funded and implemented before we are actually able to measure any positive changes in the course of AIDS, and possibly even in relationships between men and women.

The American poet, Anne Sexton, once said: "It doesn't matter who my father was, what matters is who I remember he was."

Forgiving my father for his absence during my formative years, or even myself for contracting the virus, has been an arduous journey, but we're getting there because despite popular belief ... old dogs are able to learn new tricks.

Forever Positive,
Hayden Horner
[email protected]

Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries ::
Diary Entries
HIV/AIDS Ownership: Erasing the sins of the father
Celebrity and HIV/AIDS: Limelight versus Social Responsibility
HIV/AIDS Coping Mechanisms: "What would a mayfly do?"
Beyond the Borders of HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategies
HIV/AIDS Feminisation: A new wine in an old bottle
Antiretrovirals - The Wind Beneath My Wings
The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians
HIV Prevention 101: Ignoring the Church's views on condoms
Stigma and HIV/AIDS: lethal bedfellows
In remembrance of our women and children
Maids, madams and the "terrible thing"
Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice
Previously eyes-wide-shut on HIV and religion
Love, lies and disclosure
Black pot and blacker kettle
Things better left unsaid on the bus
Food for thought while waiting to die
Test results not all good

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