Wednesday, January 12, 2011

HIV Stigma Doesn't Come from Ignorance, it Comes from Lies

UNAIDS' and the Aids industry's stigmatizing of HIV positive people has many consequences. If you resolutely claim that HIV is almost always transmitted sexually in African countries, people in African countries who are HIV positive will continue to be stigmatized. Telling everyone that HIV is driven by promiscuity means that everyone who is infected is considered to be promiscuous.

Some of the most vulnerable victims of the industry's stigmatization are sex workers or those assumed to be sex workers. Of course, according to UNAIDS, a huge precentage of African women are sex workers, even if they don't know it themselves.

Many women, whether sex workers or not, are aware of sexually transmitted HIV. Most women attend antenatal clinics when they are pregnant, if they can reach one. Those who do engage in transactional sex visit clinics if they can. In fact, the majority of women probably follow the strictures of the HIV industry, especially where they think they might be at risk.

Most women are not, however, aware of non-sexual HIV risks. Those visiting antenatal clinics or giving birth in health facilities are unaware that the majority of injections given in developing countries (70%) are unneccessary. A huge amount of HIV and hepatitis is probably transmitted in such facilities due to reuse of injecting or other equipment.

In some countries, HIV prevalence among sex workers has been found to be as high as 70 or 80%. How can this be? Especially when prevalence among men in the same areas is 5% or less. It is not possible for three quarters of heterosexual women to be infected when such a small percentage of men are infected.

Prevalence among young women of child-bearing age in some countries is 30 or 40%. It is nowhere near this level among men of any age. Who is infecting these women? The Aids industry doesn't even bother checking the status of partners of all these HIV positive women, let alone find out how they became infected.

Even if African women are as promiscuous as UNAIDS and the rest of the industry tell us, we don't know how they are becoming infected sexually, unless a sizeable percentage of men are also infected. There simply is no small group of HIV positive men who sleep with almost all the sexually active women in a particular population.

Sex workers face risks, there's no doubt about that. They have been stigmatized by UNAIDS and the industry to the extent that many of them are afraid to visit health facilities, though they know they have to. And they may be right to be afraid. Perhaps the massive rates of HIV prevalence found among sex workers and others attending sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics face more serious risks in the clinics than they do from their clients.

But sex workers also face stigmatization and persecution from their clients, who often refuse to pay or demand more abusive or dangerous types of sex. They face stigmatization from police and security people and often have to pay bribes, in cash or by sexual favors. And they are stigmatized by the public, who have been told by UNAIDS and the industry that sex workers spread HIV.

Nauseating articles about how sex workers are so badly treated, when the same articles simply spread the industry stigma, do little to help. Sex workers need to know the truth: that HIV is not spread by sex alone. Indeed, everyone needs to know the truth. Sex may well spread HIV but so does unsafe medical treatment, cosmetic treatment, tattooing, traditional medicine and any other practices that may involve contaminated blood or other bodily fluids.

One of the biggest threats to reducing HIV transmission seems to be the very HIV researchers who don't bother investigating non-sexual HIV transmission, especially in health facilities for sex workers and for pregnant women. They seem utterly oblivious to the possibility that sex is not always transmitted sexually, even when it happens right under under their noses.

It's time to investigate the massive levels of HIV among sex workers whose clients are almost all HIV negative, the mothers whose husbands are HIV negative, the babies and children whose mothers are HIV negative.

Of course sex workers are treated badly and that needs to stop. But articles that simply repeat the half truths about HIV almost always being sexually transmitted is simply adding to the neglect of their health and welfare. The very stigma the Aids industry claims to abhor comes from the industry itself.

Of course the poverty that so many people have to suffer is terrible. But it is not poverty or lack of education, terrible things in themselves, that are driving the epidemic. HIV is a virus that is sometimes transmitted sexually, but not always, probably not even often. We can't continue to refuse to investigate the relatively simple question of the extent to which HIV is transmitted non-sexually.

It's not just sex worker clients, police and others who abuse sex workers and non-sex workers alike: it's researchers and academics who claim to be helping but who don't seem to be able to see Africans as ordinary human beings. Perhaps if they take that first step, the rest will be easy.


1 comment:

Daniel said...
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