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Wednesday 9 March 2005
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In remembrance of our women and children

Dear Diary

Slumping into my occasional bout of HIV/AIDS-induced self-pity and depression recently, I found myself digging through a box of old family photographs for emotional relief.

The frozen happy smiles, beehive hairdos and fashions that were de rigueur at the time usually have the same effect on me as I imagine Prozac has on drug-dependant manic-depressives.

But I got no joy this time around as my favourite faded picture of me, eight months old, happily sitting in my mother's lap in that AIDS-free era, suddenly changed my sorry disposition not to happiness, but instead, to raw anger.

Anger at this disease for having turned something as nurturing as "mother-to-child" into a possible death sentence that deprives children of experiencing a safe, healthy bond with their mothers.

The blame does not rest solely with the disease, because it seems that man's blatant inaction in providing treatment, care and support has also often forced women to become executioners, leaving behind millions of HIV-positive orphans when they die.

Are we really capable of blindly assisting this virus to taint the natural love a mother should feel for her child through the stages of conception, birth and natural feeding? It would seem so.

The convenient phrase "mother-to-child" shifts the burden of AIDS to women, while we busy ourselves pumping billions of dollars into space exploration and conquering oil-rich countries.

It also encourages the stigma and rejection that scares women away from the very limited existing health resources and forces many of them to pass the virus to their babies.

In my opinion, a phrase better suited to describing transmission of the virus would be: "father-to-mother-to-child".

Stephen Lewis, the UN special envoy for AIDS in Africa, recently struck a chord when he charged that "rich countries don't worry enough about poor countries," and said the severity of HIV/AIDS in Africa alone was tantamount to "mass murder by indifference".

The war and reconstruction in Iraq will cost an estimated $200 billion by the end of 2004, despite the fact that the number of women living with HIV/AIDS has risen worldwide over the past two years, and humanitarian organisations are crumbling under the pressure resulting from the lack of financial support from rich nations.

Of the 39.4 million people currently infected with HIV globally, 47 percent are female, an increase of six percent since 1997.

If the latest UN statistics are anything to go by, sub-Saharan Africa is by far the worst hit region, where 57 percent of cases are female, and more than three out of every four infections occur among women and girls aged 15 to 24.

While the physiological make-up of women also leaves them more vulnerable to HIV infection than men, this does not discourage men from adding rape - including that of young girls - to the host of social, legal and moral problems that beset women, especially in developing countries, where the negotiation of safer sex by women is virtually unheard of.

These problems, which usually touch on tradition, sexual myths, poverty and the socially dictated role of women, are difficult to alter.

In South Africa, with the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world, young girls are still raped in the belief that this horrible violation will cure ignorant men of HIV and AIDS, even in the presence of a general acceptance that violent, bloody sex is much more likely to result in HIV infection than the consensual variety.

Have we really become so jaded by the daily occurrences of child-rape in this country that horror reports of nine-month-old baby girls so brutally assaulted that they are left with their insides hanging out - as in the widely publicised case of baby Tsepang - does little to jerk us into action?

There may be some truth behind the notion that underestimating HIV/AIDS has resulted in it becoming the most devastating disease humankind has ever faced ... but even more devastating is man's willingness to allow the important role of women and children in maintaining global stability to be taken for granted.

So "man"kind loses itself in war and universal domination of all kinds, as HIV and AIDS wages an even greater war on our very existence.

Hopefully, before its too late, every country on every continent will be so severely affected by this global disaster that we will be forced to act - as men, fathers, brothers and protectors of our women and children.


Forever positive
Hayden Horner


Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries :: Next Entry
Diary Entries
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
Diary speaks back
The truth about disclosure
Dangerous myths and damaged angels
Not the final countdown
Sticks and stones may break my bones
A spade is still a spade
Perceptions and deceptions

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