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Myths blunt Africa’s fight against AIDS
(Steve Swindells, Reuters, 02 Dec 2003)
[COMMENT: This story was called to my attention when I received an email from a friend in Cape Town. Here is what he said: You may have already heard that there is a myth in South Africa that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. The younger the virgin, the more potent the cure. This has led to an epidemic of rapes by infected males, with the corresponding infection of innocent kids. Many have died in these cruel rapes. Recently in Cape Town, a nine month old baby was raped by 6 men.]

Babalwa Tembani is proof that the myths surrounding AIDS can be as deadly as the epidemic itself. When she was 14, she was raped by an uncle who thought he could cure himself of the disease by having sex with a virgin. . . . The crime left Babalwa, now 21, HIV-positive and dependent on antiretroviral AIDS drugs to prolong her life. . . . The myth that sex with a virgin is a cure for HIV/AIDS is one of many that make the fight against an epidemic that has struck 40 million people worldwide -- nearly two-thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa -- even more difficult. . . . South African-based health workers and researchers point to other myths that undermine efforts to encourage condom use, one of the key planks in public health campaigns to promote safer sex. . . . These include the belief that condoms have been deliberately infected with the virus by foreign governments or aid organisations or even African governments intent on killing their own people. . . . Researchers also point to myths that AIDS is caused by witchcraft and HIV is transmitted by touch, both of which fuel the stigma and ignorance surrounding the disease. . . . But perhaps the biggest myth remains the belief that AIDS can be cured or that it always happens to someone else. . . . The belief that HIV/AIDS is a problem limited to drug users and homosexual men is also common. . . . A survey of 260 African truck drivers showed that over a third of respondents believed that sleeping with a virgin could cure the disease, putting girls and young women at great risk. . . . These are obstacles that still urgently need to be overcome in sub-Saharan Africa, the epicentre of the global AIDS epidemic. . . . efforts need to be maintained to provide people with accurate information regarding HIV/AIDS and to dispel the myths as they arise.” . . . That is what South Africa’s Love Life group ( aims to do by educating young people about the disease and sexual health matters. . . . Love Life carries the message that young people in South Africa have a greater probability of getting HIV than young people anywhere else in the world, and that more than half of today’s teenagers will have HIV before they are 25 if they do not practice safe sex.

posted by Lorenzo 1:33 PM

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