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AIDS experts strike again

What to do about AIDS in Africa? Easy, says a New York Times Op-Ed by Kati Marton of the International Woman’s Health Coalition. It’s mostly a disease of powerless and victimized women, so the answer is empowerment: female condoms and microbicides, and programs that train women how to resist sexual predators. Sex and disease are technical issues, the idea is, so where there are problems a technical fix—skills and resources—must be the answer. To the extent there are human problems they must all reduce to inequality, so egalitarian intervention must be the answer.

As always, the liberal answer appeals to those with technocratic souls. The solution proposed is metaphysically true for those believe that a human being is simply the locus of desires, so resources, skills and equality with regard to attainment of desire are the only things conceivably relevant to human conduct. Still, some people act as if other things were relevant, and sex is pretty basic, so a purely technical approach may not work practically in all cases. If the International Woman’s Health Coalition and its allies were concerned with international woman’s health instead of metaphysics they would take that issue into account. They don’t, though. That’s why the international AIDS community has been indifferent to the apparent practical superiority of “traditional morality” over “safe sex” approaches to AIDS prevention in Africa.

Now it appears that concerns other than health have been shaping other fundamental aspects of AIDS programs in Africa. According to research just published by the Royal Society of Medicine, HIV infection in Africa has spread more through medical practices, such as injections, than through unsafe sex. The expert consensus that 80-90% of HIV cases in Africa were sexually transmitted was apparently altogether groundless. It appears that the real number is about a third, with contaminated medical injections the biggest risk.

Why were the experts so far off? The researchers comment:

“Why was evidence ignored? It has been said that people often see what they wish to see … In short, tangential, opportunistic, and irrational considerations may have contributed to ignoring and misinterpreting epidemiological evidence … First, it was in the interests of AIDS researchers in developed countries … where HIV seemed stubbornly confined to MSM [men who have sex with men] … to present AIDS in Africa as a heterosexual epidemic … Second there may have been an inclination to emphasize sexual transmission as an argument for condom promotion, coinciding with pre-existing programmes and efforts to curb Africa?s rapid population growth…”

[Quote taken from a email available here.] In other words, the experts have been treating AIDS in Africa, an epidemic that is killing millions every year, as a source of factoids to be used to debunk distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual sex and promote contraception. They have promoted those factoids by using them to shape programs that should have been concerned with the prevention and relief of acute suffering. Possibly Miss Marton should drop her tone of disgust and moral outrage against the Bush administration, and turn it against her own organization and its allies.



i need an advisor from an expert on Aids vaccines please?