Political nonsense 3 March 2003
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Richard L. Newell,
Ship's Doctor
In the Caribbean

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Re: Political nonsense


I would not dream of depriving Fassin and Schneider of their right to receive funding from a French agency to pursue research into the politics of HIV/AIDS, but surely they should do better than this.

They ignore the fact that HIV by and large spread from north to south over the last 20 years, and that the colonial masters had left 20 years before that. Blaming colonialism for the ills of Africa has always been the habit of the chattering classes: nobody can tell what would have happened to the continent's people had the white man not arrived. Furthermore, most of South Africa's mass removals took place before HIV was invented! Also to talk of economic inequalities implies that HIV will attack the poor more aggressively if there are rich people around - as if the rich were somehow responsible for it. But rich black Africans get HIV too; indeed the worst affected communities tend to be those who are employed in the formal sector, i.e. the relatively rich.

The only responses that have any meaning and do not pursue a set agenda come from the South Africans Lewis and Herbert (although it is interesting to see that Herbert recruited the article's authors as co- authors of her letter!). Not so much as a hint of anything that could usefully be done to help the epidemic in South Africa emerges from the article, which is nothing more than another thumping of the old guilt- ridden white man's drum.

Let all of us South Africans try to care for our orphans and sick adults, and let us be energetic in educating the people about risky behaviour. To look for a quick fix to the problems of our country is neither realistic nor helpful. And yes, it is indeed one of the great ironies that HIV has struck its blow just when things were looking up for the African population, but that must not deflect us down politically and therapeutically sterile paths.

Competing interests:   Established and ran an HIV clinic in KZN in South Africa, 1990-91