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History teaches that when any group becomes stigmatized and dehumanized, curtailment of their basic human rights is sure to follow. Recent developments in the international fight against AIDS suggests that this sad lesson is now being forgotten.
AIDS is a scourge that claimed more than 3 million lives in 2002. Last year, an additional 5 million persons became infected with the deadly HIV virus. According to UNAIDS, which coordinates the international fight against AIDS, the HIV virus has infected an equal number of men and women.
The ABC Solution
The only nationwide program proven to curtail AIDS is known as the ABC approach (www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2003/wt030406.html). First pioneered in Uganda, ABC stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, or use Condoms.
Over the past 10 years, Ugandans were given the politically incorrect advice to abstain from sexual relations until after marriage. No grazing, which meant no sex outside of a monogamous relationship, became the operative message. All persons, men and women alike, were seen as part of the solution.
So while the UNAIDS-sanctioned approach advocates safer sex, Ugandans saw a message plastered on billboards that conveyed the opposite: Have sex and die.
The results confounded all the UNAIDS experts. In 1994, more than 60% of boys ages 13-16 were sexually active; by 2001, that figure had dropped to 5%. Dramatic changes were seen in other groups, as well -- in 1991, 21% of pregnant women in Uganda had HIV. Ten years later, only 6% of pregnant women had the deadly virus.
The Feminist AIDS Strategy
Outside of Uganda, feminist ideology has taken hold in the global struggle against AIDS. Article 14 of the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS states, ...Gender equality and the empowerment of women are fundamental elements in the reduction of the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS.
In stark contrast to the ABC strategy, the feminist approach to stopping AIDS emphasizes the empowerment of women. Lamentably, this empowerment strategy also has had the insidious effect of scapegoating men.
At a February 26 meeting of HIV experts, Geeta Rao Gupta,
president of the International Center for Research on Women, claimed
that female vulnerability in patriarchal societies leaves women with
little or no power to control the circumstances of their lives
On March 1, Kati Marton, a representative of the International
Womens Health Coalition, made the shrill claim that women
must be empowered so that they can defend themselves against the men
who are infecting and abandoning them.
Clearly, Ms. Gupta and Marton believe that men are unwilling to alter their sexual behaviors, and therefore men with AIDS are undeserving of sympathy. So we should focus our efforts instead on protecting vulnerable women.
History Now Comes Full Circle
On April 3 the director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, made this extraordinary broadside: "Women are the lifeline of these southern African communities. They put the food on the table, and they're the ones that keep families going during such crises. They've been hit hardest by HIV and they're overwhelmingly taking on the burden of caring for the young, the old, the sick and the dying."
As a consequence, according to the UNICEF press release, Women and children must be at the center of response to Southern Africa's humanitarian crisis (www.unicef.org/newsline/2003/03pr21southernafrica_printer.htm).
In short, men are useless. They are deemed unworthy of
humanitarian aid, in the eyes of UNICEF. The dehumanization of men is
Source: Carey Roberts, www.ifeminists.net/introduction/editorials/2003/0415roberts.html
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