Monday, August 29, 2011

We May Never Agree on the Science of HIV, But Let's Treat HIV Positive People Like Humans

To return to a theme that has cropped up several times on this blog, it can be difficult to understand why HIV positive people are the victims of so much hostility, stigma and persecution.

But when you reflect on how they are portrayed by the HIV industry, it is not so difficult. What then becomes difficult is how the HIV industry can be the instigator of some of the very phenomena it claims to abhor.

It's a bit of a cheap point, but HIV stands for HUMAN immunodeficiency virus. So where is the humanity? Worse still, why the systematic dehumanization of Africans by the HIV industry?

HIV positive people, and even those who are thought to be at risk of being infected, are depicted as promiscuous beyond what is credible, even possible, in humans.

Women are often portrayed as victims, even passive victims. Yet they are also portrayed as so desperate and so dependent that they will do absolutely anything relating to sex for some money, food or other goods. They are sometimes even so portrayed by those who elsewhere portray them as victims.

Men are portrayed as the main drivers of HIV epidemics, even in populations where there is a far smaller proportion of HIV positive men than women. If children and infants are found to be HIV positive when the mother is not infected, it is implied, even stated, that pedophilia must have been involved.

The mainstream media writes pretty much what it likes about people in high prevalence countries, which are all in sub-Saharan Africa. The most ludicrous claims remain unapposed, even when they are echoed throughout the entire media industry.

As well as portraying men as animals and women as either sex or money mad, or both, several recent articles claimed that some HIV positive Swazi people have taken to eating cow dung mixed with water because they lack food and can not take their antiretrovirals on an empty stomach.

As for HIV researchers, many of them don't seem to see Africans as human subjects. Numerous research projects have involved highly questionable practices, probably even unethical practices. HIV positive people have been allowed to infect other people and HIV negative people have been allowed to continue having unprotected sex with a partner that researchers knew was HIV positive.

Where is the humanity in what is supposed to be a humanitarian initiative? HIV is a virus, a sickness, a disease. It is also preventable in many instances. Because, in addition to being transmitted through various kinds of sex act, it is also transmitted through various medical and cosmetic procedures.

Why do so many people in powerful and influential positions, and so many institutions, use their knowledge and resources to beat people, to humiliate them, to stigmatize and dehumanize them? We may never agree on the science, but let's behave like human beings when addressing other humans who are HIV positive or are at risk of being infected.


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