Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We (fail to) Report - You Decide

Some things make me so mad that I either can't find the words or I seem to find all of them at once and can't organize them into a coherent argument.

The appalling situation of women in Africa is one such "thing" - most especially when it comes to the often half-hearted and misguided efforts of government and health companies to deal with African women's growing vulnerability for AIDS.

So, at the moment, all I have to say about Dr. Sock's excellent question (via Chris Clarke - sitting in for Dr. B) is that the answer, of course, lies in the assumptions and narrow-mindedness that are all too common.

Last fourth of July I had to choose between exploding and making a scene or leaving my Aunt and Uncle's picnic blanket at my town's annual Fourth of July celebration because - while god forbid that a reporter provide some background on a story - the conservatives in my town felt no shame in turning what was meant to be a recognition of achievement and inspiration into another opportunity to tell the kiddies "no sex before marriage!"

Some members of the local Rotary Club had, quite laudably, raised a boatload of cash to help a group of African girls who were either infected with AIDS, or who were at great risk for infection. When I heard this I was ready to forget any negative thing I had ever said about conservative "community' clubs and began wondering if I had enough on me to donate a few dollars if they started passing the hat around.

However, the speaker spent most of the time not talking about the girls and women they were helping, but about how lucky "our girls" are - which would have been slightly annoying even without his definition of "lucky" being overly narrow. He mentioned the "ABC" approach to dealing with the AIDS crisis - but only really talked about the abstainence. He got all teary eyed about how sad it is that "these girls" don't have the opportunity that "our girls" have to say no sex before marriage. The fact that the "B" stands for "Be Faithful" and that married African women are are especially vulnerable to HIV infection, was apparently not worth mentioning. If it had, been, I'm sure he would have completely ignored the fact that "our girls" have the right to abstain before marriage in part because they also have the right to say "no" in marriage. After all, it's all about the no sex befor marriage, it's not at all about the right to say "no" - full stop.

The link above appears to be a (now defunct ) site created in connection with the CIA's "Mapping the Global Future/NIC 202o project (the link is to google's cache). You can download the final document here.

One of the quotes that I found particularly striking from the background paper was this:
In Kenya and Zambia, data reveal higher rates of infection among young married women (age 15 to 19) than among their sexually active, unmarried (female) peers. These studies found that the rate of HIV infections in husbands was higher than in the boyfriends of sexually active single teenage women. Women in marital relationships were also more frequently exposed to unprotected sex.

grrr...I don't know why the link isn't working, but I think it must have somethig to do with it being a google cache of a downloadable word doc. I'll see what I can figure out.

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