Surely, are we not insane in using the same battle plan in our fight, yet we do not seem to be making any significant headway, with an HIV prevalence rate still unacceptably high at around 13 to 15%?
Are we not to ask ourselves if the methods we are using in trying to prevent the spread of HIV, the same reasons why this pandemic managed to ravage the world, especially the African continent?
Einstein also aptly warned us: We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
How did we create this pandemic called HIV, that has, indeed, become Frankinstein’s Monster?
Since we became aware of the existence of HIV three decades ago, all we have managed to use as a weapon against it has been condom usage.
All other aspects of an effective battle plan, such as abstinence till marriage, and faithfulness thereafter, were considered too old-fashioned, and were effectively placed in the backseat.
Yet, three decades down the line, the condom mantra has proven to be precisely why HIV is still spreading like wildfire.
The reason being that condoms are not 100% preventative.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention ((CDC) in the United States of America (USA) stated it so planely, ‘Correctly using male condoms and other barriers like female condoms and dental dams, every time, can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV and viral hepatitis’.
Could they have said it more clearly?
Condoms only reduce the risk, they do not eliminate it.
In fact, it is generally agreed that the efficacy rate of condoms is between 90 and 95%, with some scientists even arguing that it could be as low as 85%.
We need to remember that the effeciency of a condom is not judged by some magnificent lab test that just pops up a figure.
It is a very complex matter, involving major research models, both in the lab and in the communities that condoms are used.
I can not even begin to explain how these efficacy tests are done, as this would require a little booklet of its own, but needless to say, it is very complex.
As such, it could be said that consistent condom users are 10 to 20 times less likely to become infected when exposed to the virus, than are inconsistent or non-users.
How safe would you feel with such statistics?
If I asked you to drink a full glass of water, but also told you that it had between 90 and 95% very toxic poison, such as DDT, would you still drink it?
If I were to tell you that if you drank bottled water, you were 10 to 20 times less likely to be infected with typhoid fever than drinking tap or borehole water – would you freely and enthusiastically drink the bottled water?
That is exactly what we are doing by being so overly confident that condoms protect us from HIV.
Food for thought!
So why have condoms been touted as the surest way in HIV prevention?
It all boils down to the much loved US Dollar!
Disease in general, and HIV in particilar, is a multi billion dollar business – actually it is referred to as an industry.
As in any other business, or industry, people are in it for one reason – to make money, lots of money.
Therefore, anything that does not bring in tonnes of cash is not worth the effort.
That is why today, reports of people dying from the so-called superbugs, that can no longer be treated by conventional antibiotics, are on the increase.
When asked why that was so, an official at one of the leading global pharmaceutical companies candidly said that it was because antibiotics were no longer good business, and they had stopped research into developing new ones.
Why were antibiotics no longer good business?
Simply because, when a patient finishes the prescribed course, and they are cured, they will no longer need the antibiotics, and so the company loses a customer.
What he was effectively saying was that good business was developing drugs and other products that a patient will need to use for the rest of their life.
That is why HIV is very good business.
I do not, for a moment, believe that the scientists out there have failed to find a cure for Aids.
It is either, they will never seriously bother to research and develop a cure, because – as with antibiotics – it would not be good business; or they know the cure and they will never divulge it for the very same reason.
So lets analyse a simple business model.
One goes into business to make huge profits, especially these conglomerates, as such, they need to identify a great product and an ever growing market.
These pharmaceutical companies hit a jackpot with HIV, and they will do anything to ensure that they not only sustain that market, but keep it growing.
They will never be content with a stagnant market, let alone a declining one – as less and less people need their products, such as Antiretrovirals (ARVs).
A declining HIV prevalence rate – let alone, zero infection – would definately not be good business at all, as these companies would lose billions of dollars.
Therefore, they would need a foolproof strategy to keep the numbers high – and that strategy is the promulgation of the myth that condoms prevent HIV transmission.
And it is disturbingly working – as the more people trust condoms to protect them, the more they have a false sense of security.
That then leads to more and more people engaging in reckless sexual behaviour, believing that they are safe – thereby, falling right into the pharmaceutical companies’ well-setup trap.
As a result, more and more people get infected with HIV, and what are they told to do?
Start taking ARVs for the rest of your lifes.
This is not so hard to believe.
Recently, another giant pharmaceutical company was found guilty of using millions of dollars in bribing Chinese doctors to prescribe the company’s drugs to their patients.
Another case of an agricultural products company went viral – leading to global protests against it – as it lied about the safety of its products, and used millions of dollars in bribing senior US government, FDA officials, and other influencial agencies to approve its defective products.
As such, HIV pharmaceutical companies can not be exonerated from similar schemes.
They now have their tentacles everywhere through their financial power.
They have managed to influence nearly everyone, except those that research.
They know that very few of us bother to conduct our own independent research.
As someone once said, ‘If you want to hide something from a Black person, put it in a book’ – and that is exactly what they have done.
All the facts about condoms are there written down, but how many of us bother researching?
We prefer to get our information from entities that are already – one way or another – already under the influence of these pharmaceutical companies.
No wonder the Black population are the most affected.
At least, let us tell each other the truth, and then make informed decisions, as I am not advocating any particular set of moral standards.
We are blessed with the gift of choice, and no one has the right to dictate how anyone should run their own lives – it is an individual’s right.
We need to wake up to the truth of what is going on around us, for the most dangerous thing is lack of knowledge.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is Programmes Director at the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice), but writes in his personal capacity.