HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, is still devastating the lives of millions of Africans. Directly, AIDS has killed many. However, indirectly, HIV is responsible for turning children into orphans, for leading to despicable cruelty from witch-doctors' 'prescriptions,' for wiping out a large segment of sub-Saharan Africa's prime labor force. In short, HIV is responsible--along with other factors--for hindering Africa's economic, political, and social development.
Twenty-five years ago, HIV was first identified by Western scientists. Of course, HIV and AIDS had existed in Africa before that discovery. Today, over half of all AIDS cases worldwide are in sub-Saharan Africa. No other region on the planet even approaches sub-Saharan Africa's levels. Of some 33.2 million people worldwide confirmed to have been infected with HIV, 22.5 million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa.
So, the question to ask is why this is?
Many will point out that Africa does not have the resources of wealthier, more developed regions of the world; that HIV is native to sub-Saharan Africa, and thus has had longer to spread; that recent medical discoveries suggest that some Africans could be genetically predisposed to be more susceptible to an HIV infection; etc.
Yet there are more controversial suggestions about why there is such a prevalence of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, where the virus is primarily sexually transmitted, and these can't be dismissed, either.
Firstly, and the most controversial, promiscuity. Sub-Saharan Africa has the stereotype of being a place where people often have many 'intimate partners,' euphemistically commonly referred to by the phrase, 'official and unofficial polygamy.' Many Africans will point out that the West and Asia also have many promiscuous members. Such is, unfortunately, the case, but even still, the promiscuity is not as widespread as in Africa, nor as socially condoned. Although the concept of what constitutes a 'skank' or 'slut' has been weakened and diluted, those concepts do still exist in Western society.
Then there is the prevalence of 'traditional African medicine.' There are the stupid, but not particularly barbaric ones, such as taking a shower or herbal remedies. But there are also savage ones, such as raping a virgin, or using boys' body parts for 'medicines' (the boys either die or end up mutilated). 'Traditional African medicine' is not on par with 'traditional Eastern medicine,' and even much of that is quackery. While infected Africans are seeking guidance from these 'sagely' stooges, the AIDS epidemic in Africa only increases.
If Africa wants to reasonably combat HIV and AIDS, they will have to undergo cultural changes. Whether due to the racism of last few centuries, or other reasons, Africans today seem to unwilling to adopt cultural traits of others, or to acknowledge that some parts of their cultures are not as advanced as other cultures.
There is some myth circulating around that all cultures are equal. All people are equal, not their cultures. To argue that all cultures are equal is equivalent to arguing that all people's work is equal, which is obviously not the case.
Through history, there has been tacit acknowledgment of this fact. Less developed societies would look at their more developed neighbors or trade partners, and would then try to emulate those more sophisticated societies, either in whole or in part. The Germanic tribes of northern Europe recognized that the Roman Empire was more advanced technologically, economically, politically, socially, culturally. And so they emulated Rome, adopting not only Roman technology, but Roman economic systems, Roman law, Roman art, too.
Similarly, the Japanese took note of how China was more advanced than Japan, and therefore emulated Chinese society. As with northern Europe, Japan was not conquered by their more developed neighbor, but they realized what was good for their people, and acted on that. Later, Japan emulated the more advanced West, while retaining parts of their original culture. Today, Japan is the second largest economy in the world (by exchange rate) and indisputably one of the most advanced nations on the planet.
Also, ancient Southeast Asians saw that the Indians who traded with them were more developed than they were, and so they emulated Indian society, and thus made their own societies more developed, too.
Today, the United States looks at East Asia's rapid growth and is analyzing that region for cultural traits to absorb into American culture. In the same vein, China is changing some of its culture to emulate American society.
Northern Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia acknowledged that their 'original' cultures were not on par with that of their neighbors, and so adopted some of their neighbors' traits and eradicated some of their own cultural traits which were hindering their development.
Sub-Saharan Africa must do the same. Culture must be changed to respect abstinence and look down on promiscuity. Even secular people trying to end the HIV epidemic are starting to promote 'monogamy' (they don't seem ready to just come clean and use 'abstinence'). The old African ways of tolerating 'official and unofficial polygamy' must be abolished.
African culture must also be changed to expose witch-doctors for the frauds they are. Raping a child or taking a shower will not cure AIDS. 'Traditional African medicine' needs to be tossed out. Western medical practice needs to be brought in. To all segments of African society, even the poor and rural. Africans need to stop respecting the witch-doctors; and some of them should be prosecuted and punished for prescribing murder, rape, and mutilation.
Africa needs to acknowledge that parts of its cultures are not as advanced or good as other cultures, and that Africa needs to adopt cultural traits and values from other, foreign cultures, while pruning out part of their original cultures.
Then Africa can finally take charge of the fight against AIDS and HIV. Then Africa can finally start to economically, socially, and politically develop at a faster pace.
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