World AIDS Day – the condom and the killer virus

1st of December is World AIDS day but there is so little attention these days given to this most serious pandemic that has ravaged, claimed and viciously crushed the lives of millions of people with an astounding 35 million people living with AIDS around the world and almost 70% of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

And even though no more gripping documentaries are being made to highlight the rapid spread of HIV, each year more than 2 million new HIV infections are still reported worldwide with a staggering annual death toll of about 1.6 million deaths.

AIDS is a very sobering reality that has claimed and is still claiming too many precious lives across the world and particularly in Africa.

So the World AIDS day should not pass by in eerie silence rather it ought to be a day of deep reflection, a day of soul searching and a day of tears for lives that have been cut short by a killer virus that is incurable and merciless in everyway.

With a death toll so high, we ought to be asking why this virus has not been eradicated.

Earlier this year, I had a series of interesting email correspondences with a wonderful South African man over the reality and trajectory of humanitarian aid and interventions in Africa. And one of his emails to me was about the tragic failure of the condom-agenda in South Africa in the face of HIV. I found his email so profoundly moving that I decided to share it (at least a portion of it) as a primer for reflection on this World AIDS day:

“Dear Uju…

I live in KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa – the province with (until recently) the highest rate of HIV transmission in South Africa, which has the highest rate of HIV of countries in Africa – and guess what? Every government Department and every Municipal office has free condoms everywhere – by the box load! You would think that people would eventually put 2 and 2 together!

While traditional communities celebrate chastity through their values and large cultural annual gatherings, the more “sophisticated” or “educated” are trying to impose their supposedly “more advanced” agendas, which are contributing to the breakdown of the most fundamental building blocks of society – our families!”

And after reading this, I asked myself: when will the rich donors listen to Africans? When will they concede the undeniable failure of their multi-billion dollar condom projects ? When will they count the graves of our people who have succumbed to HIV (contracted in needlessly reckless sexual behaviour)?

More than 1 million Africans died last year due to HIV, and more than 1 million more will go the same way before the next World AIDS day. 

We are falling like flies into the web of this virus and yet they will not listen to our voices.

When HIV/AIDS became an epidemic in Africa, the ABC prevention plan was developed in response to it.

As a model for prevention the ABC approach stands for:

A – Abstinence before marriage

B – Be faithful in marriage or to one partner

C- Condom use if A and B are impossible

The A and B approaches were raised as the most effective ways of preventing the wild spread of HIV within our African communities. And the C approach was understood and accepted as being the (somewhat inadequate) protection for the so-called ‘high-risk’ members of society (mainly sex-workers), people whose high-risk sexual behaviour could not easily be changed and who were bound to always have multiple sexual partners.
This ABC program showed great success when it was launched in Uganda, a country with record high HIV infection rate in the general population. The number of young unmarried people having sex plummeted and so did the number of Ugandans reporting multiple partners. An impressive behaviour change was seen across the country.  And national HIV infection rates fell between 1992 and 2002, from 21 % to 6%. This is by far the most outstanding success story of HIV prevention on record since the onset of the AIDS pandemic.
But even with this documented success in Uganda , the international health and humanitarian organisations,have chosen a different prevention model that would not require or demand any sexual restraint or responsibility whatsoever.
They have developed a core prevention message that is tightly wrapped around the condom, with very little or no support at all for abstinence programs.

Groups have fallen in line with the new priorities. Led by the UNFPA, there is a louder and stronger emphasis on flooding Africa with condoms . Most recently they launched a multi-million dollar campaign across Africa known as the ‘Condomise Project.
How disturbing to see that where the African youth is not getting educated, they get condomised!

Against the views and values of the African people, these large and powerful organisations continue to push and promote condoms in our African schools and institutions of higher learning.

Here is a twitter message by IPPF a few weeks ago during the family planning conference in Africa:

From what this message says, the IPPF Program Officer is speaking to TIME magazine about “equipping” the (African) youth with condoms.

How does one equip the youth with condoms? We always thought you equip the youth with good education and training, but here we have a high official of a major international organisation boldly claiming that the youth should be “equipped” with condoms.

This captures the morally-twisted mindset of some of these international organisations that have chosen to promote and even in many cases incite high risk sexual behaviour among our youth.

While the African parents are not looking, their children are encouraged to become sexually active and then ‘condomized’ for their protection.

But in truth, condoms never adequately protect anyone. According to well documented research, when properly used, condoms are only about 80% – 90% effective in preventing HIV transmission.

Put differently, in the most perfect use of Condom, it still has a 10%-20% failure rate. Not reassuring at all for an incurable and deadly disease.

But of course it’s even worse in reality. The guaranteed protection is completely dependent on “Perfect Use”, which is a term that indicates that a product has been used exactly and correctly as specified by manufacturer.

In other words, the condom has to be used exactly right, and there is no margin for error. Any slippage or breakage (even in the slightest) would drastically reduce the guaranteed protection and put the users at very high risk. And in practice, we know that when it comes time to use a condom, Perfect Use is difficult if not impossible to achieve due to obvious distractions in the heat of the moment.

According to documented research by medical science specialists (like Professor Edward Green) who have studied the spread of HIV specifically in Sub Saharan Africa, the portion of users in the African population who attain Perfect Use with every single condom usage is alarmingly low and it is indeed this human error in usage that has led to unbelievably high numbers of new HIV infections in parts of Africa where the condom culture is most promoted.

For instance, South Africa has one of the strongest condom campaigns in Africa with the government providing free condoms in almost all public facilities and yet South Africa has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. This trend has also been seen in other high HIV prevalence areas like Zimbabwe and Boswana where the condom culture has been implanted especially among the youth.

So, no! We should not seek to “equip” our youth with condoms because, with a failure rate so high, condom has become in South Africa, Zimbawe and Botswana, the loaded weapon put into the minds, hands and pockets of the young.

And we have seen truck-loads of it being brought to the most bustling cities as well as the most remote villages, and as they throw it at the killer virus in Africa, the virus keeps spreading, thriving, and killing our people without mercy.

A truck-load of Condoms provided by a “generous” European donor to an underdeveloped East-African village

The most unfortunate thing is that even with the undeniable evidence of failure in the present prevention plan, the international organisations still adamantly choose to continue with their failed methods by pushing and promoting condom-use as the be-all and end-all of HIV prevention while forming and framing the message of casual sex with all sorts of highly eroticised lurid literature tied to their expensive projects.

I guess we could say that with one hand they pretend to extinguish the consuming fire of HIV and with the other hand they stoke the fire of sexual immorality in our communities. And so the fire continues!

One of the many morally offensive materials in circulation is “Happy, Healthy and Hot” which is a 30-page guide put together by the IPPF particularly aimed at adolescents (single, unmarried adolescents), including and especially those living with HIV. Even though this booklet is clearly a direct incitement to unspeakable high-risk sexual behaviours , it was nonetheless accepted and distributed at the United Nations in 2010 to adolescents. It is highly offensive, morally objectionable and, yes, only a blink away from being pornographic, made all the worse because it is aimed at the youth who are impressionable.

There are many similar materials in circulation from one country to the next, and they are all functional parts of a well-funded, passive aggressive move to weaken our moral values while disregarding all that we hold dear in our cultural and religious heritage.

Very tragic for us that in a bid to promote a Godless ideology and culture reminiscent of a sexual revolution , some of the rich donor organizations and countries have blindly inflicted much pain on Africa through their HIV “prevention” programs that have done quite the opposite of what they promised. So far, they have not helped Africans but have harmed us. They have not enriched but impoverished us. They have not strengthened but weakened us. They have not freed but shackled us. Tragic indeed!

So we beg them to count the graves of our people who have succumbed to HIV and reconsider their prevention techniques and methods , because real behaviour-change is still possible in Africa. With the right support and the right programs, the African people would choose the better way of abstinence and fidelity. They will no longer hang their lives on the latex which cannot even guarantee them a 100% chance of escaping the killer virus in Africa.