The Devil’s Advocate

May 16, 2009

—Lawrence Mbuagbaw—

The Pope said condoms ‘MAY’ aggravate the problem and did not make any claims to have evidence to support his statement. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

As usual everybody is after the messenger, and forgetting the message.

Let’s face it 85%, of HIV transmission is through sexual contact. HIV is growing because people are having more sex, heterosexual, homosexual, underage, illicit, married couples, you name it! He is just saying ‘less sex, less HIV’.

Abstinence protects from a behaviour that puts you at risk. Fidelity reduces the risk. A large number of cases of HIV are children and pregnant women, a domain in which the use of condoms falls short. Condoms have a strong place as contraceptives with a dual role. In Africa, unmet needs for contraception are extremely high, many pregnancies are unwanted. If people can’t use condoms for contraception, why do you think they will use them to prevent HIV, especially when millions of these people do not even know their HIV status.

The vast majority of people living with HIV are very poor and have less than a dollar a day. On average a pack of 4 condoms costs a quarter of a dollar. Nobody wants to spend more than a quarter of their budget on sex!! The logical (sad) solution will be to reduce the amount of sex you are having. People don’t even have food to eat and everywhere they go they are told to buy condoms. The choice they’ll make is more than evident.

Occasionally there a HIV programs with free distribution of condoms. For how long will this go on? And what do these people do when these programs end or when the local shop is just out of stock!! In some programs girls are told to go around with condoms so that they don’t get HIV if they are raped. Seriously, who goes out oh her home thinking, “Hmm, I might just get raped today!! Let me get a condom.” How can we possibly want to solve a criminal problem like rape, with condoms? I think we should recognize the limits of condoms.

Despite all the publicity and wonderful adverts and distribution campaigns, HIV is still looking us in the face. More money is poured in but it is not proportional to the results. With the present economic depression, funders are going to start vouching for less expensive techniques. Abstinence has always been more culturally acceptable in sub Saharan Africa and virginity used to be a requirement for marriage. Unfortunately, this is not the case nowadays. It may be a difficult practice in the modern world, but people have the right to know it can be done and that it works! You don’t have to buy or learn anything new. We should face the facts. Condoms are the easy way out, but are not always available, affordable or usable by people who need them the most.

I don’t believe the outcry following the Pope’s statement is justified. If we fear that he has a lot of power and influence, maybe we should side with him and make his message stronger, instead of contributing to the transmission of conflicting messages.

Sometimes instead of buying raincoats we need to stay out of the rain.

Lawrence is also a medical doctor and currently studying for an MPH at the Hebrew University in Hadassah.

ICASA 2008 ends with call for stronger youth focus

December 9, 2008
Ms. Souadou NDoye

Ms. Souadou N'Doye

ICASA 2008 closed on 7 December with a strong message: youth are essential in the response to AIDS in Africa, especially those living with
HIV. The closing ceremony began with a statement delivered by Ms Souadou N’Doye, a young Senegalese. She spoke on behalf of all young Africans and urged those in attendance to ensure that young people are involved in the design of HIV programmes.

She asked governments and partners to utilize the talents of young
people from each country. Without young people, she stressed the AIDS
response is incomplete. “All that is done for us, but without us, is against
us,” she said.

Professor Souleymane M’Boup, president of the ICASA 2008 organizing
committee, expressed his gratitude to the organizers and to participants
who travelled from all over the world to attend the Africa-focus AIDS
conference. He emphasized his satisfaction in knowing that all people
touched by HIV were present at the conference and had a platform to
express their concerns, from vulnerable women and sex workers to men who have sex with men and migrants. He said the mosaic of participants made this 15th edition of ICASA a success. Most importantly, Prof M’Boup said he realized over the past five days that “Africa is moving, and that
energy and hope are everywhere.” He closed by asking participants to
return home with one message – Africa’s AIDS response must be advanced.

The need for a focus on sexual minorities, the greater involvement of
youth, religious and military leaders and the urgency to improve HIV
prevention programmes have been running themes throughout the conference sessions. A cross-cutting issue was the need for long-term financing. This was identified as a critical aspect for human development in Africa and especially for an effective and sustainable response to AIDS.

The ICASA organizers used the closing ceremony to deliver a series of
awards to those leaders active in addressing AIDS. UNAIDS Executive
Director Dr Peter Piot, Dr Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of The
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Dr Meskerem
Grunitzky-Bekele, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, were among those who were presented with an award from the Senegalese Minister of Health and Prevention, Dr Safiatou Thiam.

Zack for Wear a Red Ribbon Today!

Not enough cash for ARVs or food

November 21, 2008

I clipped this from PlusNews, HARARE, 13 NOV 2008:

zimbabwe_mugabe_fistGeorge Mumba, 24, an accountant in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, is among the thousands of people whose situation has been drastically affected by hyperinflation, because customers cannot
withdraw enough cash from the bank to buy what they need.

Almost every day, Mumba, who is HIV-positive, and has been placed on indefinite sick leave by his employer, makes the roughly six-kilometre trip from the middle-income suburb of Hatfield to the city centre, where he joins hundreds other people jostling to withdraw the maximum Z$500,000 — worth less than US$2 — from his bank. Last week the maximum amount an individual could withdraw was only Z$50,000 or US20 cents. A month’s supply of ARVs can cost up to Z$20 million (US $50). “When the maximum withdrawal limit was $50,000 I stopped coming to the bank because that was the amount that I needed to travel into the city centre,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “I am on a cocktail of antiretroviral [ARV] drugs that should be taken after eating. However, I am sometimes forced to take my medication on an empty stomach because I would have failed to withdraw enough money for food. The little that I sometimes manage to keep spare is spent on food items that are hardly nutritional, and I guess that is the reason why my condition keeps on deteriorating.”

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has introduced a system that allows patients to apply to their banks for bigger amounts of cash to buy medication. Some patients have benefited from the scheme, but Mumba complains that the application takes long to be processed and, when approved, the banks give them the money in small amounts. He has “enough money in the bank to buy medication for six months, but it is painful that I am slowly degenerating simply because I cannot take out as much of it as I need”.

Tonderai Chiduku, advocacy coordinator for the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS, pointed out that “Nutrition is central to the longevity of the life of a person living with HIV and AIDS and even if one might have all the drugs needed, it would be difficult to keep in good shape.” Taking drugs on an empty stomach because one could not afford food caused side effects that might lead to patients defaulting on ARV treatment, he warned.

Chiduku, who is HIV positive, said cash shortages were forcing patients to buy drugs on an “ad hoc” basis, mostly in small quantities, “but that creates further problems because the quantities might not be the prescribed ones, and our members … tend to develop virulent strains of HIV”. The inflation rate, officially estimated at 231 million percent, made the situation worse for people living with the virus because “Prices are changing on a daily basis, and that further reduces the ability to buy drugs and food.” Although antiretrovirals are available free of charge on the government’s treatment programme, medication for opportunistic infections is harder to come by.

Tabeth Maruziva, 36, who is also HIV positive, has had cotrimoxazole, an antibiotic drug that helps keep opportunistic infections at bay, prescribed for her by a doctor. But she finds it difficult to buy the medication as well as food because most of the suppliers are charging for the drug in foreign currency. When the antibiotic is available in local currency, she has to visit the bank for two days to get enough money to buy it, but the amount she can withdraw leaves her with nothing for transport, food or anything
else after she has bought the medicine.

To buy foreign currency on the black market, she first has to get enough local currency. “That means a double burden. I hardly have the energy to stand in a bank queue and even when I get the cash, it is not enough to buy the foreign currency, for which I am forced to hunt at the risk of being arrested by the police,” she said. A single mother with three children to care for, Maruziva suspects she contracted HIV when she was a sex worker. She is now often bedridden and cannot work. It is the second month since cotrimoxazole was prescribed to her that she has been unable to buy it; in desperation she has resorted to untested traditional herbs that she has been told will have antiretroviral effects.

Martha Tholanah, the Zimbabwe AIDS Network’s humanitarian programme officer for people living with HIV, said patients in the countryside were in a worse situation than those living in towns and cities. “People living with HIV in rural areas find it extremely difficult to raise the transport fare to travel to the nearest bank to withdraw cash,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. “The transport itself is unreliable and at
times non-existent, meaning that patients are forced to forego treatment.”

World AIDS Day is on 1st December 2008. It will also be the 20th anniversary of the international event.

Zack for Wear a Red Ribbon Today!

From the IAC 2008… on circumcision

August 8, 2008


Tripling the number of circumcised men could reduce by half the number of HIV infections in the countries hardest hit by the epidemic, research presented to the Mexico conference suggests.

But it could take up to 50 years for circumcision to have its full impact on the epidemic, and it would involve circumcising the majority of sexually active men aged between 15 and 45.

Other research showed that circumcision was not associated with a reduction in sexual function and pleasure.

Zack -for WARRT Admin

Fighting Demons- the Magic Johnson way

August 4, 2008

I usually lurk about gossip sites. I get my daily fix from that. Sometime back as I made my daily rounds…I stumbled upon MEDIATAKEOUT.COM. MTO (As it is fondly called) calls itself a black online site that works to further blacks in the showbiz. This must be extended to include actors, singers, sports stars, politicians and anyone who is famous for being famous (Read: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Nicole Richie).

This particular article was about Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the erstwhile basketball great who once plied his trade for Los Angeles Lakers Basketball team in the NBA. We all know Magic’s story. His HIV story. Well at least those of us that know a little bit about the sport of basketball.

Magic Johnson tested positive for HIV during one of his team’s physical test sessions in the early 1990’s. The announcement that followed shocked the sporting world and sent shockwaves thru the core of America. See, then, HIV was associated with homosexuals and it is believe that one a few heterosexuals contracted the virus. So it came as no huge surprise to Magic when he was branded as gay or bisexual. Although he vehemently denied this,he was thought to have had multiple sexual partners, including men. Magic announced that he’d had many partners during the course of his success in basketball (as was the case with most successful people at the time). And it was through this that he contracted the virus.

His wife and children were all HIV negative.

He promptly retured from the game. But because he was so good at it, he was voted back into the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team”, the 1992 All Star game and even helped the Western conference to a win. This didn’t come smoothly for him, his participation was met with strong criticism from teammates and opposing players who were still very ignorant about the disease and thought they could contract the virus by just being in touching distance with Magic.

This he all took in his stride and proved that success could come whatever the situation and condition. In the 1993 NBA season, he attempted a comeback which stopped before the season began. The heavy criticism from the NBA forced him back into retirement. That was the last time he played or attempted to play competitive basketball.

He however set up foundations and attended or lectured at seminars and conferences about his fight with the disease and ways of prevetion and managing it. His foundation has grown to accommodate opther charitable causes other than HIV/AIDS alone and he has advocated for cheaper AIDS drugs from GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmacuetical company whose anti AIDS drugs he fronts.

He has also worked with Doctor/ Physician Dr. Lynn Montana to help educate the world’s youth about the risks associated with HIV.

While I was at MTO I encountered what I think is the worst problem in the fight against AIDS. And it’s not stigma. It is IGNORANCE.

One would find it hard to believe that people in Uganda are more knowledgable about HIV/AIDS than people in the USA and other western countries. With the level of development and education, I would expect them to have been well versed with all to do with HIV/AIDS.

This article has a “chubby” Magic Johnson. And they ask how he does it… How he puts on weight?

The ignorance has led them to believe that HIV/AIDS makes the sufferer lose weight and appear frail. So when Magic Johnson is seen as “fat” and well rounded they wonder.

But this isn’t the eye catchng bit…when u scroll all the way to the end and read the comments is when u shall realise how bad it is. I want to believe that they are all just sarcastic comments, but all the readers can’t be that sarcastic. Good senses of humor belong to very few of us.

This will open your eyes.

Have a good day y’all

Miss Cheri for Bloggers Against AIDS

While we are on the topic

July 31, 2008

As the adverts say, it all begins with you.

All you bloggers who have taken an HIV test, leave your mark here. It may encourage others to know that some obviously intelligent successful young people are doing the smart thing. It will also shock you to know how many “smart” people are just going about not knowing.

I, Petesmama did the needful in October, 2007. It was my long overdue first time.

Et toi?

Reality versus Ideality. Sincerity versus sympathy

July 27, 2008

This is a conundrum. And excruciating one. A rock, you, then the hard place.

This is a situation where you have to put your feelings, ideals and impartiality aside and delve into the abyss that being sincere. With yourself and with your God.

We all know HIV/AIDS and STI’s can only be transfered through unprotected sex with an infected person, open sores, sharing sharp objects with an infected person, from mother to child at birth, at breast feeding and blood tranfusion with infected blood. Those are the only ways an HIV negative person can contract the virus from a positive person. Right?

AIDS is not seen as a monster that can’t be handled anymore. The availability of “cheap” ARVS and prevention methods has helped a great deal in curbing and minimising infection and HIV related deaths. Today, a HIV+ person can live a further 10-20 years in great health on Anti Retro Viral medication. This way, the number of deaths has fallen drastically compared to the early 1980’s and 1990’s when the prevalence a mortality rates where so high. We all know that with the right medicine and feeding or lifestyle, one can have HIV without suffering from AIDS. Because AIDS is a combination of all the diseases that attack the body that has already been weakend by the HIV.

So essentially, not everyone who is HIV+ has AIDS but every one who has AIDS is HIV+. U get?

That is the reality of the situation.

The ideality of the situation is that HIV/AIDS infected persons should not be ostracized. They should be treated with respect. Stigma is a global fight in the AIDS war. Fighting stigma with help people learn more about HIV/AIDS from everywhere. It will also help the infected people to learn about ways in which they can improve their lives and fight other diseases from attacking their immune systems.

Ideals are all about living in harmony with HIV+ people and leading a normal life with them. Right?

But here is a situation where u have a new born baby. (Most women get the services of nannies/babysitters/maids to help with the heap of work that comes with a newborn baby.) A mother employs a baby sitter to help with the extra baby chores around.

After a few weeks of having the maid around, she seems sickly with a constant cough, flu and some spaced out bouts of malaria and fevers. Then one day to take her to hospital and suggest an HIV test. Lo and behold, it comes out POSITIVE! The maid had no idea she was HIV+ positive and the doctor says her condition is not grave but she is suffering from AIDS as well as her immune system is already very weak and all these diseases like Cough, fever, flu and the sores are staring to develop. Of course she is put on medication ASAP so as not to complicate her situation further. And u go back home.

The babysitter has been so good to you and the baby and does her work very well.

But the problem is, you don’t feel comfortable anymore, leaving your baby with that baby sitter. It’s just a fear u have in you. And u start to look around for another babysitter so u can relieve the current one of her duties. That is the reality of this situation.

That is someone else’s situation.

Now, I kindly ask you to put yourself in her shoes and tell me what u would have done. Be sincere with yourself and think about it. If u had a child that was being looked after by an HIV/AIDS infected sitter, would u FIRE or keep her HIRED?

Waiting on your responses.

-Miss Cheri for Bloggers Against AIDS.