Vol IX, Issue 2 (Spring 2002): The AIDS Crisis in Africa

   


EDITORIAL
BOARD:

Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor
emeagwali@ccsu.edu

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor
brownw@ccsu.edu

Haines Brown
Adviser
brownh@hartford-hwp.com

REGIONAL EDITORS:

Olayemi Akinwumi
(Nigeria)

Zenebworke Bissrat
(Ethiopia)

Paulus Gerdes
(Mozambique)

Mosebjane Malatsi
(South Africa)

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)

TECHNICAL ADVISORS:

Tennyson Darko
Asst. Dir. ITS, CCSU
darko@ccsu.edu

Peter K. LeMaire
Professor, CCSU
lemaire@ccsu.edu

Bernice A. LeMaire
Website Designer
lemaire_bea@ccsu.edu

For more information concerning AfricaUpdate
Contact:
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
CCSU History Dept.
1615 Stanley Street
New Britian, CT 06050
Tel: 860-832-2815
emeagwali@ccsu.edu

 





 

Table of Contents


Editorial: The AIDS Crisis in Africa

The current status of HIV and AIDS in Africa has re-entered the international public eye, even though trends in HIV infection and AIDS diagnosis have been serious for many years, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS (2001), 70% of all adults infected with HIV and 80% of all HIV+ children live in Africa. Twenty-one of the countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates (the cumulative number of individuals diagnosed with an illness or disease) are in Africa. There are clear regional differences regarding HIV and AIDS prevalence rates. For example, in West African countries such as Nigeria approximately 5% of adults are HIV-infected. The situation is much worse in other regions. In Zimbabwe and Botswana one in every four adults is HIV infected. Since the start of the epidemic over 20 years ago, approximately 34 million people have been infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa alone. South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV or AIDS in the world. The number exceeds 3 million.

Most research has identified a link between poverty and HIV infection. A lack of access to (and faith in) condoms, erratic HIV/AIDS education, inconsistent health care, poor diet and the like are all associated with high rates of HIV infection and lower-than-average life expectancy among those who are already HIV infected. In spite of these realities, there are numerous debates concerning the causes of this pandemic. Some, such as that of well-known University of California-Berkeley cellular biologist Peter Duesberg and South African President Thabo Mbeki, have publicly challenged the claim that HIV leads to AIDS (also called end-stage HIV-disease). While such voices are in the minority and are regularly censured, they do highlight the fact that doubts concerning this disease abound.

Some of the persistent doubts about how HIV was introduced to African nations as well as the debates concerning the HIV-AIDS connection are directly linked with the legacy of racism and neo-colonialism in Africa.

The three contributors to this issue of Africa Update are outstanding scholars and activists. Dr. Carol Coombe has worked in Departments of Education in both Zambia and South Africa. She is currently Research Associate on HIV/AIDS in Education at the University of Pretoria, where she serves as Research Programme Leader for the Faculty of Education. Dr. Coombe has been affiliated with various international organization-UNAID is an example. Ms. Patricia Jerido works for the Ms. Foundation for Women as the Program Officer for reproductive rights. She is also program officer for the Ms Foundation's Women and AIDS Fund. This branch of the foundation, created in 1996, supports organizations with HIV-positive women in leadership positions to do advocacy and community organizing around women and HIV/AIDS. She was a participant in the UN World Conference on Racism held in 2001. Ms. Jerido previously worked for the

New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and has been active in health organizations for more than a decade. Dr. Walton Brown Foster, Professor of Political Science, has been on the CCSU faculty since 1984. Her areas of research are expansive. They include American foreign policy, international relations, and African Latin American Politics. Dr. Brown Foster is the author of Democracy and Race in Brazil, Britain, and the U.S. (Edward Mellen Press, 1997).

Guest Editor
Renee T. White, Ph.D., CCSU Department of Sociology and Social Work.

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World Conference Against Racism

By Patricia Jerido, Program Office, Health and Safety, Foundation for Women

Representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups from around the world gathered from August

28--September 3 for the United Nations World Conference against

Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

(WCAR). Post-apartheid South Africa proved an auspicious site for the third WCAR, marking an improved political atmosphere over the previous two world conferences against racism held in 1965 and 1983.

With over 8,000 participants the WCAR was a massive event where no one experience defined the meeting. Many simultaneous sessions took place and participants had to make hard choices about which caucus to attend. Though US media coverage of the conference downplayed its importance and catapulted the Palestinian issue to the front of the WCAR stage there were many other issues that were debated and discussed in Durban including reparations, land rights, globalization and HIV/AIDS.

The conference was fraught with many problems most importantly a lack of resources. Activists charged a lack of economic support of the conference, which could be seen in the lack of translation available, and the dearth of participation of individuals from Asia and Africa--even South Africa, the host country. In addition, the North/South or Industrialized Nation/Developing Nation divide was clearly evident as governments for the US, Canada, European Union and Australia fought vigorously over the exclusion of language in the document that would hold them accountable for past wrongs.

During the six-day conference, participants--mostly people of color--convened in a post-apartheid South Africa to build relationships and align with other racial justice movements. The WCAR provided a forum for activists to highlight the critical racial injustices within their own countries. In addition to the networking and cross-country strategizing, representatives from NGOs had a mandate to develop language for the Declaration and Plan of Action that governments could adopt. And though it was unlikely with all the contention evident at the preparatory meetings before WCAR, that there would be agreement on such issues as reparations, defining Zionism as a racist system, or the rights of indigenous people, the global stage provided a venue in which people affected by racist policies were able to air grievances.

The UN Declaration is not a legally binding document, but many people in governments and NGOs use the declaration as leverage when advocating within their countries for policy change. NGO representatives worked to develop a declaration that built upon previous human rights and UN conferences. Despite the portrayal of the conference by the press as a failure--this, before the meeting was even over--one of the important lessons to come out of the conference was the ability to connect varied issues together into a larger framework; to understand where different injustices intersected.

As a funder for Women and AIDS programs in the U.S., the meeting offered an opportunity to understand the global context for my work. Repeatedly speakers mentioned the necessity for making the links of gender, race, culture, and poverty with HIV crucial to our understanding of how to address the spread and eventual treatment and [dare I say] cure for HIV/AIDS.

Once a person is diagnosed with HIV one knows immediately that discrimination because of one's status will become as much a part of one's life as worrying about catching a cold or how one will ever enjoy sexual intimacy. This discrimination is real and comes in the form of alienation from family and friends, loss of employment, loss of housing, and violence. HIV stigma is linked to other discriminations including poverty, gender, sexuality, and race. So an individual is not just discriminated for his or her HIV status. An economically disadvantaged Black woman in the United States receives compounded stigmatization for being Black, female, poor, and HIV-positive. This compounding of HIV/AIDS-related discrimination for Africans and African-Americans is important to understand for the social responses necessary to form concrete actions at the international, national and local level.

While the disparities continue to grow between Black and White infection rates it is imperative that activists do not foster the pervasive perception that HIV is a Black disease. Such racial profiling of HIV rates not only increases stigmatization of Blacks but also increases the sense of fatalism among Africans/African-Americans while simultaneously providing a false sense of security to other racial and ethnic groups. Yet the numbers are glaring. HIV/AIDS like racism has crossed the globe. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the hardest hit by the HIV pandemic with 25.3 million people infected with HIV. In the Caribbean, AIDS is the leading cause of death of young people.

In the United States African-Americans remain the largest racial/ethnic group affected by HIV and AIDS accounting for 48% of all new AIDS cases. African-American women aged 25-44 are still most likely to die of AIDS than any other illness.

It is important however to understand and articulate the reasons that fuel these disparities in order to develop solutions.

When HIV discrimination is allied with racism the resulting inequalities are seen in discriminatory public policy, lack of cultural sensitivity in program planning and differences in access to health-care systems. At the session on HIV/AIDS, participants discussed the results of the UN General Assembly, which met in July 2001 to address HIV/AIDS. At that meeting the Assembly unanimously endorsed a declaration of commitment, which directs member states to increase the level of funding for the Global AIDS and Health Fund. The assembly also set a date by 2003 for member states to enact, strengthen or enforce as appropriate legislation, regulations and other measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against, and to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people living with HIV/AIDS and members of vulnerable groups; in particular to ensure their access to inter alia, education, inheritance, employment, health care, social and health services, prevention, support, treatment, information and legal protection, while respecting their privacy and confidentiality; and develop strategies to combat stigma and social exclusion connected with the epidemic. Despite the UN commitment, within the United States and South Africa clashes exist over how to link HIV/AIDS, racism, gender, and poverty. Following the lessons learned from discussions at the WCAR with South African AIDS activists it is clear that addressing HIV/AIDS out of context for the majority of people who suffer from the illness does little to stall the advance of the epidemic. For African-Americans and Black South Africans HIV/AIDS is just one indicator of living under a racist system that aggravates discrepancies in health care, treatment, and wealth. While we need to address the disparities we do not want to fall into perpetuating stereotypes that will hinder other advancements. The situation for people of the African Diaspora is varied and interconnected. When addressing HIV/AIDS we must remember that we are grappling multiple problems.

The spread of HIV has followed racial patterns worldwide and has been deeply affected by apartheid policies in South Africa. Migratory labor practices forced African men to leave their communities separating men from the sexual norms of settled rural societies. Under apartheid, Black South Africans were denied access to education, access to adequate health care, housing and employment. Even while the African

National Congress (ANC) was banned in South Africa they were developing policies regarding HIV/AIDS. In 1990 the ANC drafted the "Maputo Statement on HIV and AIDS," which was an urgent call to make HIV prevention a priority. The ANC worked with the existing government's ministry of health on HIV/AIDS issues.

Epidemiological evidence from the United States shows the progress of the epidemic over time. In the early 1980s, most AIDS cases occurred among white people. However, cases among Black people increased steadily such that by 1996, more cases were reported among Blacks than any other racial/ethnic population. This increase has come about by the social and political conditions of African-Americans.

In his speech during the 13th International AIDS conference, South African President Thabo Mbeki stated, "[W]e are confronted by a health crisis of enormous proportions. One of the consequences of this crisis is the deeply disturbing phenomenon of the collapse of immune systems among millions of our people. [I]t seemed to me also that every living African, whether in good or ill health, is prey to many enemies of health that would interact one upon the other in many ways, within one human body. And thus I came to conclude that we have a desperate and pressing need to wage a war on all fronts to guarantee and realize the human right of all our people to good health. We remain convinced of the need for us better to understand the essence of what would constitute a comprehensive response in a context such as ours which is characterized by the high levels of poverty and disease. [t]he world's biggest killer and the greatest cause of ill health and suffering across the globe, including South Africa, is extreme poverty."

It is imperative for Africans/African-Americans to contextualize the role of HIV/AIDS. An extended view of HIV/AIDS is necessary but continues to attract controversy. Advancing political activity for

HIV/AIDS care within the context of eliminating racism, globalization, gender discrimination, and homophobia delays the advance one would make if they moved forward on one issue. Yet, without looking at the complete picture single-focus advocacy does little more than take energy away from long-term solutions.

What occurred in Durban was not the finality on the issue. Debates continue to wage in the UN over whether there will be a 5-year review, a UN office established for follow-up, or experts to assess the country's progress. NGOs have continued with their efforts to advance their racial justice work and fight and remove racist policies and institutions. The WCAR proved important for activist to address their own internalized oppression that exacerbates feelings of powerlessness, distrust, and hopelessness. Follow-up meetings and community forums to debrief on the conference along with documenting and writing articles about the experience in Durban have helped to maintain momentum "especially after September 11" and move forward. As we advance our racial justice work the lessons of interconnectedness, global focus and local action from the WCAR will prove invaluable.

U.N. Declaration of Commitment HIV/AIDs:

"Global Crisis" Global Action. Speech of Thabo Mbeki, at the Opening Session of the 13th International AIDS Conference

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HIV and Education: Preventing and Protecting

By Carol Coombe, Ph.D., Faculty of Education Research Associate and Research Programme Leader, HIV and Education, University of Pretoria

For twenty years the HIV virus has spread inexorably through southern Africa. All efforts to contain it have failed, and South Africa now has the largest HIV-positive population in the world. But HIV/AIDS is not just a health problem, because it attacks systems and institutions as well as individuals. In education, demand for education is dropping and changing, many teachers are ill and dying, and the trauma of loss associated with HIV/AIDS is entrenched in South African classrooms and lecture theatres. In South Africa, as in Africa as a whole, it is no longer ‘business as usual' for education.

South Africa has the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS epidemic and more HIV positive people than any other country in the world. Over four million South Africans are HIV positive; there will be six million by 2005. By then 2.5 million will have died of AIDS or a related illness. Mortality rates will double by 2010, and life expectancy will drop from 68 to 40 years.

By 2005, nearly one million children will have lost one or both parents. By 2015, when the epidemic peaks, ten per cent of South Africa's population--about 3.6 to 4.8 million children--will be orphans. Traditional patterns of education and childcare will have to accommodate large numbers of children infected and affected by

HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS is already influencing productivity because of illness on the job, absenteeism due to personal or family illness, and funeral attendance. Public sector services will cost more, and economic growth will slow as the number of skilled workers declines and cannot be replaced. Child mortality will increase as poverty deepens. Survivors who are orphaned, unsupervised and inadequately parented are more likely to engage in criminal activities. Ultimately, South Africa is likely to experience a real reversal of development gains. Further development will be more difficult, and development goals, including those set by Government for the education sector, will be unattainable for the foreseeable future.

South Africa's Strategy: Losing the Battle Against the Spread of HIV/AIDS

Information on HIV/AIDS is systematically collected, reported and analysed in South Africa. Despite the Department of Health's strategic planning, and increased resources for fighting the pandemic, South Africa is losing the battle against HIV/AIDS. Prevalence rose from 0.7 per cent in 1990 to over 22 per cent in 2000. What happened?

Government fights this battle on difficult ground. In taking on

HIV/AIDS, it is also taking on the complex legacy of apartheid, the region's migrant labour system which has for decades disrupted family and community life, high levels of poverty, and profound gender and income inequality. South Africa's excellent transport infrastructure and traditionally high levels of mobility permit the rapid spread of HIV into new communities.

Very high levels of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), the low status of women, social norms which accept or encourage high numbers of sexual partners, and resistance to the use of condoms also challenge Government's battle plans. The pandemic thrives on sexual violence, male domination, and child abuse in South Africa. HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are highest among young people, especially teenage girls. Many adolescents are sexually active at 12 years old, but few practice safe sex because of pressure to engage in unprotected intercourse, to have a child, or because they lack access to user-friendly health services and are uninformed about condoms and risk. Over one-quarter of women 16 to 20 years report they have been forced to have sex. In the face of violent and coercive male behaviour, combined with their own limited understanding of their bodies and the mechanics of sexual intercourse, many young women have little chance to negotiate safe sex, including contraception or condom use.

Abuse of young girls and children within families is on the rise, highlighting three myths or theories apparently linking child sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS. The prevention theory is based on the assumption that all sexually active people are likely to be HIV infected and, in order to be ‘safe', one must choose a partner who is not yet sexually active. The cleansing theory suggests that having sex with a child will cleanse the infected individual of the virus. Finally, the retribution theory is linked to the deliberate spreading of infection to all sectors of society.

The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Education System

It is within this context of catastrophe, challenge and loss that South Africa's education national and provincial departments—and their partners in the education sector--struggle to maintain their balance.

There are currently just over 12 million learners at school (50.5 percent female) in South Africa, in about 30,000 primary and secondary schools (Department of Education, 2000a). As HIV/AIDS reduces the number of parents 20 to 40 years old, numbers of orphaned children increase, and poverty deepens, school enrolment rates are expected to decline. Dropouts due to poverty, illness, lack of motivation and trauma are set to increase, along with absenteeism among children who are heads of households, those who help to supplement family income, and those who are ill. Unless state provisioning changes to meet more complex learning demands, more young people will be functionally illiterate and unqualified.

At least 12 per cent of all educators are reported to be HIV positive. In southern Africa an HIV positive person without access to drugs dies within seven years of infection. That means that over 53,000 educators will die by 2010, or between 88,000 and 133,000 educators if prevalence reaches 20 or 30 per cent.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic will have a traumatic impact on all educators and learners. The work of HIV positive educators will be compromised by periods of illness. Even among educators who believe they are not infected or do not want to be tested, morale is likely to fall significantly as they cope emotionally and financially with sickness and death among relatives, friends and colleagues.

HIV/AIDS will have a traumatic impact on learners. Many live in families that are overextended and are under pressure to contribute to family incomes as poverty deepens. They are losing parents, siblings, friends and teachers to the disease. As orphans, many will have to move long distances to find new homes. For others, there are no homes at all. Children are being abused and young women are subject to violence and harassment. As a result, learners are increasingly absent from school and distracted.

Education Sector Action

Until late in 1999, the Department of Education had no policy on HIV/AIDS. In August 1999, the Department's Corporate Plan, 2000-2004 highlighted three objectives related to HIV/AIDS: (1) raising awareness about HIV/AIDS among educators and learners, (2) integrating HIV/AIDS into the curriculum, and (3) developing models for analysing the impact of HIV/AIDS on the system.

The Department of Education's National Policy on HIV/AIDS for Learners and Educators (1999a) takes account of Government's responsibilities for children's rights specified by international agreement (Nineteenth Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child cited in Smart, 1999, p. 58), the Constitution of South Africa (1996), and the law (AIDS Law Project and Lawyers for Human Rights, 1997; South African Law Commission, 1998).

It has taken almost twenty years to come to terms with the complexity of HIV/AIDS. Reaction to the pandemic has for the most part been hesitant and ineffective. The health-focussed response has been inadequate, as rising prevalence rates show.

The Department's principal focus thus far has been on teaching safe sex and creating an HIV/AIDS-aware environment in schools. It assume that (1) there is a deadly virus that is killing people, and (2) that education's task is to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Some headway is being made in teaching safe sex, and creating a culture of care in schools. But progress is slow. Only about 15 percent of schools have a policy on HIV/AIDS. Male teachers still represent one of the greatest dangers to children and to female educators. One-third of all reported rapes of girls younger than 15 were perpetrated by schoolteachers.

More robust evidence about sexual behaviours, including violence against women and children and male bisexuality, is needed to improve HIV/AIDS teaching, learning and counseling. Not enough is understood yet about how custom and tradition, poverty, family disorientation during the apartheid years, persistent gender inequality, and HIV/AIDS-related myths are linked to each other and to the spread of the disease.

Managing the Consequences of HIV/AIDS for Education

The situation seems to be desperate and getting worse, without a contingency plan to protect the system against HIV/AIDS. But there are things that can be done, however challenged the present and bleak the future may look.

The first step is to recognise that this pandemic is not just a health problem: it brings labour, psycho-social, economic and other consequences in its trail that threaten the quality of education itself.

We need politicians, and senior officials and international agency staff who are knowledgeable and committed, who are convinced that our situation is grave, and recognise that our learning structures are under threat.

HIV/AIDS in education is not the problem of departments of education alone. Bureaucrats must tackle this pandemic by working with partners inside and outside government. A holistic approach to difficulties across the whole education spectrum is now required.

We need to collect, store and share information, and to identify crisis indicators--alarm bells indicating trouble--which can be monitored over time.

It is not possible to manage this crisis given present conditions in national and international agency bureaucracies. Departments and agencies cannot continue to react to this crisis, but must anticipate its consequences, and be far more proactive in harnessing resources to counteract it.

Policy needs to be interpreted for those implementing it, in the form of guidelines and guidance notes, regulations and codes of conduct, so that local, national and regional efforts are focused and purposeful.

Adequate provision for local and national nongovernment partners must be made through appropriate funding mechanisms, including fundholders.

Conclusion

The response of South Africa's education departments has so far been practical and multi-faceted. There is both political and official commitment to address operational as well as health difficulties created by the pandemic.

As the pandemic begins to bite, greater resources and creative energies will be needed to protect the quality of education provision. Education officials and their partners inside and outside government now need to learn how to stabilise the system, devise innovative ways to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on the sector, and respond creatively to new management and learning requirements. In an education environment radically altered by HIV/AIDS this will require a foundation for action featuring collective dedication among all stakeholders in education, systematic information collection and analysis, dedicated structures and full-time staff responsible for strategic planning, effective partnerships of all stakeholders, professional crisis management capacity, and streamlined funding.

When closing the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban in July 2000, Nelson Mandela said that 'we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now.' Each day, on the basis of South Africa's experience, much more is known about the adverse consequences of HIV/AIDS for education systems. The time to act is now.

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Africa Online

By Haines Brown, CCSU History Department, Emeritus

Interest in the potential of open software for African economic development came to light in a <I>Wired</I> article, "Africa: The Linux Continent?" which appeared on 22 September 2000. The basic point was that Linux offered an alternative to the exhorbitant price of proprietary software. Linux and other open software costs no more than its download.

Microsoft counters that Africans lack the technical skills for the development and support of and training for the Linux platform. This is a valid concern that was quickly picked up by Microsoft's apologists. For example, in April of this year, the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA-Africa@yahoogroups.com) pursued an on-line debate that brought up several points.

One is that Linux lacks the corporate sponsorship that carries with it needed technical support. However, the on-line support associated with open software is arguably superior to that of Microsoft. It does, however, presume a universal connectivity which Africa yet lacks.

It would be prohibitively expensive to train Africans in computer maintenance and administration. However, it represents a social investment that is likely to pay off in the future in terms of economic development, while the alternative is a an ever greater dependence.

Inexpensive computers do not come with Windows and other software already installed because the cheap machines being dumped into the international market by brokers are first "sanitized" by having all data on disk overwritten. The software piracy rampant in Africa therefore does not evade the challenges associated with software installation. Linux is attractive because it is basically free, is as easy to install as Windows and includes suitable office applications.

Another factor is that because Windows is hidden, it allows Microsoft to embed snooping software that reports back to it the state of your computer, licences, and potentially even your behaviors. US Federal agencies have already entered into an arrangement with most ISPs and probably also with Microsoft to use that capability to screen all communications. Germany and China at least have seen Linux as a way to block this snooping, and that certainly must be a concern in Africa as well.


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Thinking the Unthinkable: The AIDS/HIV and the Spectre of Biological Warfare

A commentary by Walton Brown Foster, Ph.D., Central Connecticut State University, Department of Political Science

As the world watches the United States respond to threats of domestic biological terrorism through the spread of anthrax from unknown sources, I am reminded of the rumors, beginning in the late 1980s, that the AIDS/HIV crises in Africa and people of African descent in the diaspora was the result of ongoing biological warfare research in the military labs of the major and superpowers. The rumors continue to this day. But, neither mainstream scholars nor media have taken the rumor seriously.

In the 1980s there were two exceptions. At the time, their voices and opinions on the matter seemed just short of hysterical, even ludicrous, to many. Now, their views may not seem so hysterical or ludicrous.

The scholar, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, and journalist, Tony Brown considered possibility that the AIDS crisis was more than a naturally occurring epidemiological phenomena. Both Welsing and Brown persisted in challenging much of the information disseminated to the public about the disease as well as the mainstream medical and scientific explanations of the pathogenesis of the disease.

In an article written in 1988, published in an anthology of many of her writings entitled, The Isis Papers, Welsing boldly crosses the psychological barrier between the "ponderable" and the "unspeakably imponderable." She asks the basic questions: could, would, and have any governments in the past engaged in bio-terrorism and biological warfare, therefore causing a pandemic like the AIDS/HIV phenomena?

Welsing bases her affirmative conclusion on the evidence from the Nazi regime in Germany prior to and during WWII and the forty-year Tuskegee syphilis experiment between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama.

She presents another more startling bit of evidence from the publication, A Survey of Chemical and Biological Warfare, by John Cookson and Judith Nottingham in 1969. The authors of the book reviews and surveys the biological and chemical warfare materials and policies of the US, Canada, and Great Britain, and West Germany.

The survey includes discussion of a disease, Vervet monkey disease (African Green Monkey disuse), as a potential biological warfare agent. "It is unaffected by an antibiotic substance so far tried and unrelated to any other organism. It causes fatality in some cases and can be venereally transmitted in man." In the words of Dr. C.E. Gordon Smith, "It has possible potential as an infectious disease of man. It presumably is also of BW (biological warfare) interest." (p. 322)

The authors further state, "Just recently a great deal of useful work has been done on Vervet Monkey Disease" which caused seven deaths in Germany. Reports of progress were: Sent to 40 laboratories all over the world; 9 of these have been supplied with infective material and/or antisera (vaccine): 4 in the USA and one each in Germany, Panama, South Africa, Uganda and the USSR; a non-infective complement fixing antigen has been prepared to the WHO (World Health Organization reference laboratories). (Hansard, May 1968; Cookson and Nottingham, p.110)

From another study by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman (Hill and Wang, 1982) A Higher form of Killing (The Secret Story of Chemical and Biological Warfare), Welsing quotes: "the Russians were developing ‘three horrific diseases for warfare... Lasa Fever, which according to the sources, kills 35 out of every 100 people it strikes, Ebola fever, which kills 70 out of 100 and the deadly Marburg fever (Green Monkey Disease).'"

If AIDS/HIV is the same as same as Ververt Monkey disease, studied by those developing biological and chemical warfare agents, then Welsing's conclusions provoke us to think very differently about the appearance and spread of AIDS/HIV.

We will probably never be completely satisfied with either the scientific or nonscientific explanations of the origins of disease (It is certainly unlikely that any nation will confess that their chemical and biological warfare experimentation is the source of the disease).

The same level of response that we now witness in the United States in response to the Anthrax as fears of bio-terrorism spread in the aftermath of the September 11th destruction of the World Trade Center should have occurred in response to the AIDS epidemic.

Billions, of dollars were raised in the wake of the WTC bombings within a matter of weeks. An international coalition to fight terrorism was successfully formed in which all members made some level of commitment to fight a common enemy. After the first appearance of Anthrax, major medical and pharmaceutical institutions marshaled resources to increase the supply of antibiotics and plans began to overhaul and improve the US medical infrastructure.

For Africa, this did not happen. But, the sudden appearance and rapid spread of the disease in Africa should have warranted the same level of response. In retrospect, the appearance, spread, and devastation caused by the virus in many nations on the continent are nearly indistinguishable from a "terrorist" attack: an unknown source of origin; the creation of social and personal disorientation; ordinary human behavior becomes ``weaponized''--planes become bombs, sexual intercourse creates a potentially genocidal epidemic.

A similar level of response to the African AIDS crises did not begin to occur until nearly two decades later. According to the UN, since AIDS began in Africa, 18 million Africans have died and, 26 million, nearly 9 percent of all adults in Africa are HIV positive. The socioeconomic consequences of the epidemic will be felt for decades.

Nearly two decades later, the UN sponsored its first conference on the AIDS crisis in Africa. Secretary General Annan's initiative to create an international AIDS fund and the success of South African governments successful push to get the major pharmaceutical companies to allow lower cost production of vaccines came much later in the game for Africa than was warranted and very little has been done to improve the health care and delivery infrastructure of the majority of nations on the African continent.

Now, in the wake of the Attack on America and the heightened alert and global awareness of bio-terrorism and chemical and biological warfare, maybe the overall global effort to increase the global availability and accessibility of healthcare, medical care and pharmaceutical treatments for diseases that are potential bio-weapons, AIDS/HIV will be viewed and treated differently.

Cookson, John and Nottingham, Judith. A Survey of Chemical and Biological Warfare. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969.

Harris, Robert and Paxman, Jeremy. A Higher Form of Killing: Secrets of Chemical and Biological Warfare. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.

Welsing, Frances Cress. The Isis Papers. Chicago: Third World Press, 1992.

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