Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Areas of Zero - Grazing

Uganda has been the Wonder Child in the whole fight against the scourge of AIDS. But just like any Hollywood Kid Wonder, as of late it might just have been involved with the “wrong crowd”. While others are influencing it against its focused narrow path, we are watching the numbers of infected & dying Ugandans turn uphill and steadily climb.

People are flying into a right panic about why. Does this mean that the strategy that we have been copying for a good decade and more not actually work? Does such a strategy expire from AIDS fatigue? Is it the political situation of warfare giving people other worries? Is it elements outside what we have so far attributed to the Ugandan success?

A fascinating article appeared in the Washington Post about the Uganda AIDS situation & its history. The journo puts forward the theory that the reason for the about-turn in an excellent achievement is the forgotten spotlight on “Fidelity”.

Uganda is championed as initiating the programme that was to become known as the A.B.C. of AIDS Prevention. Abstain. Be Faithful. Consistently & Correctly Condomise.

After watching an early success, organisations, governments and donors have taken this on and attempted to make it into a universal package. But gradually people found their corners of the fight ring. The right-wing and religious guys push for Abstinence (in sometimes disgraceful ways!), while the liberals are saying, “Let the people shag, but give them & teach them about condoms”.

“Being Faithful” has been left by the wayside. [Note: the “B” also means a fewer sex partners in one’s lifetime. Be cautious, Be faithful, Be scarce.]

In the 1980s Uganda started with pushing local messages of “Zero Grazing Areas”: an agricultural term inspired by the zero-shaped patch created when livestock were tied to a post and allowed to eat only from a single section of grass.

Over the decades, and as the Global AIDS “Team” realised Uganda was doing something right - “The initiative had been overtaken by big-budget, bureaucratic programs that resembled those in most African countries. Persuading Ugandans to stay faithful to their partners was no longer the focus... "It was a mistake," Okware said. "That message was loud and clear."… Nearly 18 years after [the] dramatic crusade, billboards warning against the dangers of reckless sex are hard to find in today's Kampala, the graceful, hilly capital. Far more common are photocopied fliers brazenly saying "Get a Lover" and listing a cellphone number”.

Ugandans are now like the rest of us, and are not afraid of HIV, and so are acting accordingly.

For some reason, perhaps the “faithful” theme reminded me of another fascinating more-left-field “faithful” theory I read in 2004. On why the spread of AIDS is in the global pattern it is. (It would be almost impossible for me to find that article now.)

The author proposed that people had multiple sex partners the world round, but it was the nature of these relationships in each area that affected the AIDS infection demographics.

People in Africa will have several sex concurrent sex partners. They would be sleeping with the same people for years and years. It just so happened that the timing of these relationships overlapped. Think of a spider wed of sex (Or of the FaceBook of Sex!)

People in Asia are unfaithful to their partners, but rather in once off situations. They will visit prostitutes often, but generally never the same prostitute twice.

People of the West have multiple sex partners but never at the same time. Rather each relationship will follow on the tails of another, but not run at the same time. (From my experience of some Western men, I might have to laugh my head off at this point).

As HIV, [and I say this with the trust that you are not going to misuse such a piece of information in immature ways – do not play around with death & think you have any clue what your risk is in a situation], does not NECESSARILY transmit during a once-off encounter. [But it CAN! Just like pregnancy can just happen with a one-nighter].

This means that a once-off with a HIV-positive prostitute lessens the Asian person’s chance of infection. The Western person is theoretically practicing “Be Faithful”. And the African person is, well, screwed.

So perhaps this continent does call for people to have fewer casual sex partners & to remain faithful to each one, who they are with in isolation. “They” being you and me, by the way. It always seems the author & reader forget this point.

The Washington Post article ends with:
Raymond Kwesiga had a girlfriend, several occasional partners and a knack for seducing others so reliable that his friends dubbed him "Raymond the Great," he said. Many nights, too lazy to call a girlfriend after downing a bottle of Uganda's bitter national liquor, Waragi, he spent 75 cents to hire a prostitute.
Sometimes he used condoms, sometimes not -- a common but uneven approach that research shows almost entirely undermines their value.
"I was enjoying my life, and I thought I wouldn't get the virus," Kwesiga said, speaking with the deliberate cadence of one trying to live up to newly learned ideals. "I wasn't very scared. . . . During the night, you don't get scared."
He is now HIV positive.
Now many of Kwesiga's nights are filled with fear. He fears dying. He fears he may not be able to marry or have children. And with the painful clarity that has come with sobriety, he fears he may have given HIV to somebody else.

[To add to a point made earlier – the more violent the sex, the higher the chance of HIV being transmitted, as there will be more cuts, tears (if even micro), blood and bodily fluids involved. This means that if you have been assaulted, if only once, do not take the chance, go straight to a clinic for PEP.]


Anonymous said...

I heard three days ago of yet another quite close friend who contracted the virus through brazenly reckless behaviour. And this isn't the "kind of person" for want of a less "stereotypical" phrase you'd think would catch it. There isn't an AIDS demographic. It can and does affect and infect everyone.

Champs, when are people gonna get that it can happen to them/us/me.

What is it about human denial? I mean, a healthy level of denial helps us break through fear in life. It helps us act in situations in life spite of fear.

And while abstinence isn't the answer (at least, I don't believe it is), what will it take?

I mean, we can't go into every intimate encounter believeing it'll kill us, but at the same time, the psychology of fear and denial is killing us. Fuck.

muddlepuddle said...

Well written champs. Truth is it's so big, it's hard to comprehend let alone understand. But it does amaze me that people still see it as being "out there" when actually it is right here on each of our doorsteps. Pretty astounding how the concept of Be Faithful is the first to fall by the wayside. Out of the ABC's this is the one that appeals to peoples morals and ethics and yet it's the one that's disregarded so easily.Scary.

ChewTheCud said...

Woohoo - I was looking for a reason to not indulge in mad-crazy-rabbits-who-just-got-out-of-prison sex with random women and I found it. Thank you champers for killing the ardour everywhere. Next time someone begs me for sex I'm going to quote this stuff ;P

Peas on Toast said...

"And condomise correctly"

Don't you hate it when you roll the dang thing on the wrong way?

Champagne Heathen said...

HPF - I am sorry to hear about your friend. All the best to them & learning to live with it.

I honestly do not know. Maybe we are not meant to ever get it. Afterall, that means going against our engrained sense of reproducing.

You summed up that one dilemma very well! ....one that has many questions & I don't think any objective answers.

Muddle - thanks babe! And it is good to see you around here so often as of late!

The denial I face when talking to people about this topic is very frightening. Maybe it is because extreme versions (right wing or left wing) always have more money pumped into them than the middle ground. The moderate rather lets things be, than support it with time, money & resources.

Chews - Pleasure! Anytime! Well, maybe only if the person is very random. If it is your faithful girlfriend or wife, you might be ok. Might be.

Peas - A convo once had btwn 2 people..."Ha ha ha, You're an AIDS Activist, YOU should know how to do this PERFECTLY!" ...."Well, I'm a little distracted right now, ok!! If you stop THAT maybe I would do better at imagining you as a demo model".

Maybe we need more practice with the demo models & gov-issued condoms!

Phlippy said...

I love reading your blog. I'm still upset you never got the recognition you deserve... Oh well.

Thank you for yet another amazing post

Revolving Credit said...

Seems that you've just given Chewy an out for next time when you as him to come around for the promised birthday weekend.

Sounds like peeps should just sticks to virtual or telephone sex.

Although in this case you may not catch HIV but you'll still be fucked over by Telkom. :(

Her Infinite Cuteness said...

the "it will never happen to me" syndrome.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Phlips! I didn't expect to win. I was saying on some other blog, I am more Social Awareness than Politics.

You should check out Someamongus's Zim post today/yesterday for a good but depressing post!

Rev - I still eagerly wait by the gate all w.end for the human sized cake to arrive with a Chewy inside...but nothing.

I recommend phone sex, what with it hands-free kits and/or speaker phones. Unless you finally get me that gadget where all you have to do is hit any button...

Cuteness - by why not. Everything else happens to everybody? Why not a disease passed on by everyone's favourite passtime?

Robert@iScatterlings.com said...

Sex is overrated.

Anonymous said...

just came across your blog post, nicely done. i believe the article you're talking about was written by helen epstein, who wrote 'the invisible cure,' which deals with the subject matter. cheers

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks very much Anon!
I actually was given that book but got distracted with moving to Oz to be able to read it yet. It's there waiting my return back to Jo'burg & my bookshelf. Will try and get to it sooner now!