Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

AIDS - the white plague?

By Akosua Oppong

Well, well, well!!! There has been a sudden increase in the amount of space allocated to the Medical sections of all the newspapers and magazines one bothers to skim through. Even the tabloids, which I confess to reading, are full of it, often quoting some professor from some unknown University giving his views on a subject matter which under normal circumstances would be taboo.

"Whotsit", ad the adverts say, AIDS (Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome). One would have ignored the whole issue and treated it with all the contempt it deserves as one does when faced with hyped-up issues, especially, one that has all the pro- fessors coming out of their corners and giving advice which they are not even sure of and are most likely to change in a few months time, but for the consistently outrageous attempt to link AIDS with AFRICA.

First of all, let's have a look at the known ways in which this disease is acquired. It is said to be through the ex- change of body fluids. Examples found to have contained AIDS virus include semen, blood, tears and saliva. The last two are said to have very little impact and are therefore not usually mentioned as a way of transmitting.

Infection through the blood is a very emotional issue. One reason is because haemophiliacs have been known to be infected with AIDS by this method. The factor 8 given regularly to them which enabled them to live a relatively normal life has been found to be infected with the virus.

Even though the screening of blood donors and of the extract itself, Factor 8, have led to a reduction in those infected in this way, others were not so lucky. What do you say to a little boy who has been infected? "The drugs you take to keep you alive may kill you, instead? The parent feels guilty, the medical establishment who gave the Factor 8 feels guilty and the boy himself may end up a social outcast. He is ostracised from school, play and all other activities in which a young child normally participates.

The infection through semen is the most well-known and widespread way of infection. The homosexual community has the largest number of victims. Or bisexuals who pass it on to their partners. It is virtually unknown among lesbians. Therefore the tabloids named it the gay plague.

What I cannot understand is the amount of space given to it by the mass media. Which leads me to think that either the majority of the press is gay or the gay lobby is the most well organised lobby in history. This disease came into prominence in 1982 and within three years, just about everybody has heard about it. Whether through the squalid and paranoid headlines in the tabloids or the more restrained articles in the medical journals or the informative articles in magazines like TIME and NEWSWEEK. Venereal diseases are usually not discussed in public but AIDS seems to have been an exception. Even though most of the likely victims are still in the closet, it is being discuss- ed in all fashionable gatherings. One cannot avoid it. Everybody seems to know someone who has it. The current joke is the advice to the unemployed -The best way to get a job is to say that all the other applicants are homosexuals and therefore likely carriers of the disease.

First of all, let's have a look at the known ways in which this disease is acquired. It is said to be through the exchange of body fluids. Examples found to have contained AIDS virus include semen, blood, tears and saliva. The last two are said to have very little impact and are therefore not usually mentioned as a way of transmitting.

Even hunger and all other diseases which kill more human beings everyday do not seem to merit as much attention. I have two theories which may not necessarily be right but may be the reason for the unparallelled attention. After all, if a Minister whose father is an ex-Prime Minister dies of hunger it would be such a boring story. How about this same individual dying of AIDS. The possibilities of an award winning novel from such a story are enormous. It brings into question his sex life (was he gay, was he in a posi- tion to be blackmailed, who are his partners, can they be blackmailed). I can see the day when the biggest spy case would break out and the basis would be AIDS. Imagine the prizes and prestigious awards one can bag by writing on AIDS. After all, even 'boring' hunger reports from Ethiopia and even more boring war stories won several awards. And they do not have the intricacies of an AIDS story. Why not the gay plague…

My irritation with the whole AIDS scandal, matter, case, issue or whatever one decides to call it, is the African connection. Once again they have done it. I mean the so-called ex- perts. Since I do not have an organisa- tion behind me to sponsor a detailed research programme I shall depend on common sense. We are told that half the population of east and central Africa are carriers of AIDS. They are all said to be heterosexuals. Business- men are being advised to keep well away from prostitutes when in these countries. Kenya for example has been mentioned and so has Zaire. These two countries have large business com- munities and thriving tourist industries and who is to say that the natives, if they indeed have AIDS, did not get infected by the Western businessmen who go there? How can the western ex- perts prove that the disease originated from Africa? I hope it is not another of those dark continent syndrome reports whereby anything you cannot prove or do not understand is left promptly on the door steps of the African and the dark continent.

I find both homosexuality and prostitution repulsive and therefore, I feel it is outrageous to associate such a disease with a people who do not condone either. African societies are by and large polygamous. We do not have the hypocrisy of the West. Where monogamy is given as the norm when in fact half the husbands have mistresses and girl friends.

In our society, the few homosexuals there are (all traceable to contacts with white men and old colonial types) are treated as taboos. We consider homosexuality as unnatural and an aberration and no African village contains any homosexual, the very few there are, are in the urban areas and have either spent some time in Europe or been houseboys to Europeans.

Any society which tries to justify sodomy would have to pay the consequences of Sodom. As long as drug ad- diction (another method of infection) and all other unacceptable behaviours are justified by screaming liberals, AIDS and all other consequences would have to be paid.

In the meantime, a bit of sympathy for the unfortunate haemophiliacs who have been advised not to have children for fear of passing it on to them.

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