Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

HIV/AIDS, Human Rights, Lesotho, Religion

Dealing with HIV/AIDS in Africa

I was attracted enough by the title of an article to resolve to read it. The title read: “Uganda: Africans Can Overcome HIV/Aids.” I wanted to know how we could do so. If Uganda can do it, then Lesotho can, also, I reasoned. Lesotho has one of the highest rates in the world. I went home this year after 7 years away, and found many of my friends gone, compromised to AIDS and the folly surrounding it.

But I was quickly disappointed by the article, even if it spoke some truths that I would agree with. Shunning promiscuity is one of those. But the author also says things like, “since the condom is about safe sex and safe sinning,” it cannot be Jesus’ approach. Now, I don’t know if it would be Jesus’ approach — my worry lies in the fact that the author thinks condoms are for sinning.

Condoms are for safe sex that should be had by any couple if one of the partners is infected. We must remember that infection does not equal sinning, and that infected people should not be stigmatised like it has been done before. There are many ways to catch a virus. And even if someone catches the HIV virus by fornicating, sinning, cheating their spouse, our job is to help them, not to hurl Biblical verses at them, not to cast the first stone. That’s what Jesus said to the mob that wanted to stone that woman accused of whoring, right? Who are we to pass judgement?

Condoms are also for birth control. If I have “enough” children, or if I don’t want to have children, full-stop, then naturally I use a rubber. There are many reasons why a responsible person would want to use a rubber. They may not want to infect their partner or be infected by their partner, they may want to control the size of their family, they may feel more comfortable having sex with a rubber than without, they may want to use a rubber in order to prolong the excitement of the act. And any of those are as valid as wanting to eat to live.

“Since the intervention of the condom hinders man and woman, whether married or not, to become one flesh, the sexual act that follows merely implies manipulation of among partners as conduits of sensual pleasure and masturbation. Thus the prevailing mistrust for abstinence and faithfulness among partners seriously betrays African cultural and Christian values in preference for secularism and utilitarianism.

I think it’s wrong to imply that who uses a condom sleeps around and cheats their partner (in bold in the quote above; the highlighting is mine). It is simply untrue. And the sexual act can be enjoyed only for sensual pleasure. It is an outlet of love that God has bestowed on us (and maybe on dolphins, too, I don’t know. And who cares?). The sexual act is the ultimate in acts of love. Ranks right next to dying for someone. Maybe that’s why they call it “the small death.”

I also happen to think that this is not a question for Christians, or Jews, or Moslems, or Atheists alone, but for humans. AIDS hits flesh and blood, not spirituality. So I think to look at the issue and make it Christian is beside the point. And that’s what the author is doing. HIV/AIDS is hot-blooded, and kills my Jewish neighbour as well as my Hindu friend. We need to address it in those terms. Go and tell their families what you think Jesus would want and they will tell you what they think their own saints would want. Where does that leave us, standing on this blue, vulnerable planet at the edge of a hostile environment? You tell me.

“The African solidarity with the infected and affected, augmented by the Christian story of the Good Samaritan will bring about the holistic physical and spiritual healing required.”

I dig that. But the article does not convey that meaning. The Good Samaritan stops to help without saying, “Huh, what faith is this one, and did they or did they not fornicate?” I’m a Christian brought up in a Christian home (It is true, but I have to say that here to give my point of view the benefit of being at least looked at by some. Much like running for President in the United States). But I don’t think anyone has the right to interpret either the Bible or the teachings of Jesus Christ for humanity. I accept the fact that there are other religions that do not necessarily agree with mine. I do not want to fight with followers of those religions (or those non religions), but would like to hold hands with them to face the difficulties facing our lonely, vulnerable planet. The only basic, universal truth here is that we’re in deep shit together. Now, how do we get out?


  1. Ugandan President Museveni, has many faults however, his campaign to combat aids has been commendable. Other African leaders should take note.

  2. Its a shame that those who are in positions of power and authority often allow ideology to stop them from taking helpful action. In the U.S. abstinence only programs that don’t work are the result of this type of thinking. It’s strange how people who claim to be moral can look upon the suffering of others and not feel compassion.

  3. Annwen

    The commentary about solving the HIV/AIDS problem in Africa is vast, and socially, temporally and contextually complex. Conflating moral-religious standpoints with attitudes and ‘solutions’ regarding HIV/AIDS can be traced in commentary from African countries as well as the USA, SAm countries and European countries (I suspect also in relation to Australasia, but have not followed). However, I agree that the core of the matter is, as you conclude, we are in this situation and how do we go about resolving it.

    The referenced article cites conduct, behaviour change and openness as the reasons for Uganda’s infection drop. Indeed, are these not the qualities needed in all areas of change- from gender equality, to non-discrimination, to economic empowerment. The referenced article is an opinion piece, and the judgmental religious angle may provide clues as to the intended audience. This does not absolve the ‘verse hurling,’ but such commentary can be a useful starting point in understanding how to approach tackling reducing HIV infection and de-stigmatising AIDS in a culturally sensitive, and ultimately effective way.

  4. I’m of the opinion that it does no harm to preach abstinence, it in fact probably does a lot of good. But preaching the non-use of condoms is a disastrous undertaking, and we simply cannot afford it.

  5. “they shun promiscuity” – in which africa does the author live? or in which am i?