Introduction: I have written this paper in a haste. I could have done a thorough job of it given my academic background, but I am aiming primarily at three things - to keep the paper as simple and understandable as possible and to keep it short and as brief as possible so many people will like to read it. To point in a certain direction for social scientist researchers willing to put a light to the debate of HIV=AIDs=Death - perhaps someone out there is listening.
A new model to describe causes of illness and death in Africa that could be classified as 'AIDS'
The model of Behaviour Induced Immune Deficiency syndrome (BIIDs) in America takes the form of drug abuse and extreme experimentation with drugs in the Gay and Lesbian communities. In Southern Africa it came with the "Blessings" of WENELA. (Witwatersrand Native Labour Association). WENELA was the organ responsible for recruiting labour for the South African mines. It represented shrewd and oppressive labour contracts drafted between the host country - Apartheid South Africa and supply countries of Southern, East and central Africa. At its peak Wenela drew hundreds of thousands, if not millions (cumulatively), of young men migrant labourers to the mines. The main catchment area for WENELA were the southern African countries of Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zaire and as far afield as Tanzania
Colonial Southern Africa was a place like any other, where European conquest meant the natives became second class citizens, denied of equal opportunity in employment and any other social amenities that came with modernity. The only job opportunities accorded to black natives, at professional level, were such jobs as teaching and nursing, a few services and if only they could give those services in their communities. Townships sprung up through out Sub-Saharan Africa in the 20th century. These were basically Ghettos characterized by over-crowdedness, continued neglect and filth, to say the least. Continued migration from the country to the city continues up to today in many African Countries, but the current model of migration differs slightly from the earlier on model of migration.
In the early days, the migrants were mainly young men who came to the cities to seek employment and those married or otherwise left their loved ones back in the country. This happened mainly because of two reasons - migrating to the city did not guarantee good accommodation for the woman and the offspring. Secondly the municipalities had devised a system that made it unattractive for young men to make the cities their home. Accommodation that was provided by the Municipalities were the infamous Hostels. The Hostels were dormitories - single rooms in high rise buildings, 7m by 4m, for male migrant labourers. Typically designed to be shared by two people, the rooms ended up carrying as many as six people. No women were allowed in these single-sex hostels. The men who shared these hotels shared a communal toilet (Bathroom). Typically these places got overcrowded to the extend of there being one toilet for over 200 men per floor.
Two economic powerhouses of the colonial era were Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa. With the advent of liberation struggle in Zimbabwe in the 60s and 70s, South Africa became the biggest magnet for migrant labour. All these people would be accommodated in the infamous Hostels. This gave rise to the proliferation of the shabeens. Shabeens were the informal residential outlets of alcohol - since the blacks were not allowed to drink at designated places and at least to drink at all. The shabeens primarily supplied two things, apart from entertainment, alcohol and prostitutes. "The single-sex hostels that provided for housing, offered systematic denial of normal family life to migrant workers, encouraged prostitution, the spread of communicable diseases such as TB, and widespread breaking of families and crime."
Prostitutes were sneaked into hostels and because these miners had very little disposable income, stories of people sharing a prostitute were many. Rumours of homosexuality, men having sex with men, surfaced at large for the first time in societies that traditionally regarded homosexuality a taboo. Common sexually transmitted diseases thus made a foothold with gonorrhea being the most common and syphilis the salient killer. Medical services given to these people were basic at most necessary to keep them going but not at all exhaustive. For many of the young men, the "underground medical services" provided the means to a desperately needed end. The use and abuse of medicines was rampant with no one checking.
The compound effects of war, disease, economic and educational disadvantage, industrial might and racism
Common uneducated but dangerous beliefs emerged. It was wildly believed taking antibiotics before sex was assurance that one would not contract an std, or taking at least four tablets the following morning was another quick remedy. A common occurrence was taking the antibiotics at the shabeens - with a swallow of alcohol. The use and abuse of alcohol, marihuana and medical drugs was unprecedented while apartheid South Africa did not have a comprehensive and appropriate medical system to control and fight the diseases among mining communities. To supplement the medication was the practice of taking medical herbs which saw traditional herbalists make brisk business from diseases that were traditionally not part of their culture. My personal observations, with most of the medical herbs is that, they fail to do much in clearing the bacterium such as gonorrhea let alone syphilis. For one, while some medication was available for other sexually transmitted diseases the deadly syphilis was inadequately tested or treated, it remained deliberately under-detected and under-treated.
By the time the WENELA program died down, a lot of medically resisting bacteria existed as parasites in the majority of these young men. The majority of these people left for home carrying their goodies and other "special" tiny presents with them. Men complained of an untreatable penal discharge that they used to see every morning when they woke up. They went back to Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other sub-Saharan African countries. At a time when most of these young men started dying in the late eighties, emphasis was on the new scourge AIDS even when most of the symptoms were very similar to syphilis, the AIDS stigma gripped many nations, people panicked and common sense was completely lost in the medical field. (Most of the people who have died from the so called AIDS, are people born between 1945 and 1969 and those who might have contracted the BIIDs bugs and never got adequate and appropriate treatment.). The fact that in SA the "disease" has killed more black people than white people (in percentage terms) would be better be explained by the former Minister of Health of Apartheid South Africa, if the majority of us are too dump to put the dots together.
Compounding the death scourge was the fact that, in the sixties and seventies, southern Africa was involved in wars of liberation struggle. At its peak Rhodesia had concentration camps where people would never be immunized against common diseases. Political stability did not correspond to health stability in Southern Africa. All those young men and people who had been displaced by either labour Migration (WENELA) or War did not get immunized nor did they get tested for syphilis. It is always a common trend in post war African nations. Those raped during the struggle will never receive proper counseling let alone proper medical diagnosis and treatment. The United Nations facilitates relocation without rehabilitation - thanks a lot to them. (Just wait and watch the Dafur crisis - when it is over, all the children who missed immunizations will never be immunized and all the women who were raped will never be checked, tested and treated for communicable Stds and TB, but overfunded HIV researchers will be the first to find experimental "monkeys" among these people- just watch and see).
Serious deficiencies in basic healthcare
The underground system of medication continued for a very long time in these countries - and as we speak, syphilis is not a reportable disease in Southern and Central Africa and is hardly tested. Genital herpes is basically ignored. One can be treated of gonorrhea five times a year, using the standard antibiotic prescription, and the medical doctor would never sagest that this person be tested for other diseases, like syphilis or perhaps change his medication to a stronger penicillin injection that could knock off the resistant gonorrhea.
"The mining sector in particular has a stubbornly high rate of disablement and deaths. The inability of the current and previous systems at the mines to prevent, gauge, and adequately compensate for occupational injury and illness, to include associated social illnesses related to social and cultural disruption, poor health provision is well recognized. The legacy of under-recognition and under-detection of occupational illnesses persisted into the 1990s. This is compounded by the fact that ill-health may only emerge some time after employment when the migrant has returned home. Time lags of up to 20 years between exposure to risk factors on mines and detectable diseases to mine workers (and those they probably infected) place the burden of ill-health on the supplying country. In case of sickness, injury and disability, migrants fall back on rural households and poorly equipped and failing public health systems of home countries" - in short, these sick and exhausted labourers go back home to die.
Parallels are drawn to the Tuskegee experiment of USA. The experiment involved a group of 399 black men used as "monkeys" in a medical research for a forty year period, 1932 to 1972. The men had latent syphilis a disease that was prevalent during the era. The standard treatments available at that time were known to be highly toxic and there were grave doubts about their effectiveness. This selected group of men was not showing symptoms at that time. Even after 1947 when an effective antibiotic treatment became available these men were deliberately denied treatment and they were thus left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis - which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. (someone remember the descriptions of the illness symptoms and deaths associated with AIDs on the onset of the "discovery" of the disease?). As the degeneration progressed and a significant number died, the CDC of America collected the data.
The data which they did not collect was my major concern, when I first saw a documentary and a film about the story. They did not collect data about how many more people were infected by these "monkeys" before they died. Two hundred and fifty of the group were served by the bell. They joined the US army on the onset of WWII where they were ordered to be treated for syphilis. And as I write, it is my big suspicion that many people of African American communities are still dying from the ripple effect of the Tuskegee experiment, for up to now, there has not been a comprehensive program set by the American Government to curb the ripple effects of the experiment - (well it is affecting mostly black people, and those whites now allowed to sleep with black people).
You could have thought a country as big and rich as America would have a compensatory program that encourages sexually active Blacks to be tested for syphilis, once in every two years free of charge. Then if they are found to be infected with the syphilis pathogen they get free treatment. This would be the best compensation for these descendants of slaves, the majority who remain social oppressed and languishing in poverty, and thus resorting to prostitution and drugs for survival. - but alas wisdom died long ago with Socrates before America was "discovered". As logic would dictate, first things first - attack the devil you know. All the money used to fund AIDs programs could be used to curb social ills and correct the syphilis situation in USA.
One thing that often irritated me when I entered higher learning was a topic question that required me to self critique - that is to criticize my own findings or my own proposals. The worst irritation came when my best friends made "ground beef" of my presentation in front of a professor. I soon realized and accepted, though, that it was standard practice in higher learning to present your work for criticism. That is the democracy in the academic and scientific world. What worries me today is the lack of such democracy when it comes to issues regarding HIV/AIDs research. From the time of Gallo's "discovery" to this day, none of the AIDs theories is questioned or criticized before publication - everything is given as fact and the public has to take it.
While I do not want to challenge the existence of a virus dubbed HIV, I would like to draw people's attention to the correlation of immune deficiency in humans that is acquired through social ills or social behaviours. And in the name of academic democracy never to stop questioning and if any of the so called "experts" have defeated the known protocols of research and publication, the public has the right to know the truth and, just as no one is above the law in society - no one is above academic scrutiny in matters that affect the world at large. Robert Gallo's paper must be challenged.
- I hope my brief paper points at something and provokes the minds of social researchers to use it as a guiding tool and make a thorough job to Challenge the HIV=AIDs = Death model (This is not a researched paper - it has been written from my observations and experiences of living in Southern Africa in the seventies and eighties.)
- While it has been pretty obvious that the immune deficiency identified earlier on in Gay men, was primarily due to abuse of poppers and other carcinogenic drugs, it remained a puzzle as to why such a similar occurrence could have plagued communities of sub-Saharan Africa which are principally heterosexual. I have attempted here to show that the element of clinical drug abuse did exist in Africa, and could have had similar consequences among heterosexual people.
- It is well documented that constant treatment of recurring stds with antibiotics will suppress or diminish the immune system. This will occur to both sexes and to homosexual or heterosexual people.
- For Sub-Saharan African countries, I recommend they take this paper seriously and try to investigate their primary short-comings in medical provisions : they better pump more money into such programs as prevention, treatment and of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, focusing on syphilis and gonorrhea, circumcision, to curtail the transmission of herpes, and basic immunizations - more money pumped in this direction will serve the populations better than in the HIV programs. (Perhaps if this paper is expanded to give a through argument at the WHO - the UN will better fund the fight against the BIIDs to the betterment of all.
- Until there is a consensus on the existence and testing for the HIV virus, the people of Africa are at a great disadvantage. False positives have been known to result in tests of people who have been attacked by Chicken pox, Tuberculosis (TB), Herpes and Malaria. All these ailments are extremely common on the African continent.
- The debate about HIV must not be silenced given the past statistics in the past twenty five years - where all predictions are falling short from fact. Incorrect information about immune deficiency is costing lives. People are under-informed and mis-informed, and they are thus making wrong choices, and perhaps worse - having wrong choices imposed on them.
Refs : Quotations from " African Migrant Labour Situation In Southern Africa" - by Dr Godfrey Kanyenze - March 2004 ( italics mine.)
For an African's experience of being diagnosed HIV positive in an industrialised country, read The cost of citizenship: compulsory poisoning