The AIDS rate here in Africa far outstrips that of any other continent with infection rates in countries like Botswana and Lesotho approaching 24%. Zimbabwe’s rate was 29% in 1997–that’s almost a third of the population infected with HIV or full-blown AIDS. Within ten years, it had tumbled to 16%…and no thanks to western-style “solutions” that have been touted for years as the only way to deal with AIDS.
[Click below for the full report — not for young readers.]
As recently reported in the ZimDaily, Zimbabwe’s precipitous decline in AIDS infections owes nothing to so-called “safe sex” programs or UN condom distribution initiatives:
The earnestness with which the worldwide media scrutinizes Church statements about AIDS can only mean that they are deeply interested in promoting what has been most responsible for major reductions in its prevalence. Right? Then why haven’t you heard about the plunging prevalence of AIDS in Zimbabwe?
It dropped almost in half, from an astonishing 29 percent of all adults nationwide in 1997 to 16 percent in 2007, according to an important study published in February.
The study was briefly summarized by the New York Times, but its findings generated little buzz because the decline did not occur the way it is supposed to.
In a nutshell, changes in sexual behavior – substantial reductions in casual, extramarital, and commercial sex – accounted for the drop in AIDS….
Poverty, we also still hear, leads to more AIDS. But we’ve known for years that some of the poorest countries in Africa have the lowest AIDS rates, while some of the wealthiest countries have some of the highest AIDS rates. Even within high HIV prevalence countries, AIDS rates tend to be higher among the well off than among the poorer classes.
This might seem counterintuitive, but without “disposable income,” people are less equipped to afford or sustain the multiple sexual partnerships that drive HIV transmission. The hardship and anxiety of Zimbabwe’s economic deterioration over the past decade, it turns out, had a silver lining. Economic collapse, thankfully, is not a precondition for behavior change.
The poverty of an uncouth and callous utilitarianism, however, in which the good is equated with the “safer,” and hope for another way of life remains at best an unwelcome afterthought, is another matter altogether. This intellectual and spiritual poverty, which reigns amidst widespread material sufficiency, saturates HIV prevention policy, but it has not proven to be nearly as protective against HIV as relative material poverty. Nonetheless, many public health leaders still seem convinced that economic improvement – by which is usually meant some form of redistribution – is a prerequisite for AIDS control. As Emory University’s Dr. Carlos del Rio put it recently: “You talk about ‘Can we decrease the HIV burden in the United States?’ I would say, ‘What can we do to decrease poverty in the United States?’”
No doubt he meant to express magnanimity of spirit and earned applause for this sentiment, but it actually reveals deeply unflattering philosophical presuppositions about human nature and capabilities. Are we really to assume that people below a certain material threshold are unable to control their behavior? (Or that no one is capable of changing and no one really should anyway, but that people, by virtue of being above an unspecified material threshold, will therefore comply perfectly with the technical recommendations, which have thus far failed to reverse HIV burdens?)
Persons are thus viewed as less than fully human – as objects dependent upon constantly supplied “services” – while much greater influences on human behavior remain deeply discounted.
This should ring a lot of bells with those of us who have grown up in a culture where permissive sex with any number of partners is not just winked at but openly encouraged by educators and feminists like Erica Jong who assure us that it is “normal” and good for teenagers to “explore their sexuality” as long as they do so “safely.” We are also told that expecting teens (or anyone, for that matter) to practice abstinence until marriage is utterly unrealistic and can even be “harmful.” Dr. Miriam Grossman documents this utterly wrongheaded and short-sighted approach to sex education in her book, You’re Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child. Her earlier book, Unprotected, detailed the devastating emotional and physical consequences of the “hook-up” culture on young men and women, leading to depression, disease, and even suicide.
As the ZimDaily article points out so well, to believe people are unable to change their behavior “reveals deeply unflattering philosophical presuppositions about human nature and capabilities.” If we continuously tell people from an early age that they simply cannot control their sexual drives, we dehumanize them and degrade them in their own estimation on a very deep level. To come along 20 years later and try to throw condoms and “safe sex” programs at a problem we have created is incredibly demeaning and patronizing.
Zimbabwe has proven that condoms aren’t the answer — changes to human behavior are key. And the foundation of those changes rests on the truth that we are not animals but human beings created in the image of God and perfectly capable of making wise decisions about relationships. Sex is a gift from God, created by Him to be enjoyed within the context of a faithful, monogamous marriage. As westerners begin to deride monogamy as allegedly a-historical and uphold promiscuity as our default “setting,” we need to look soberly toward Africa to read our future. Throwing out marriage and monogamy comes with a price I don’t believe we are willing to pay–a price that isn’t just a physical one told through AIDS and STD statistics but a spiritual and emotional one that robs us of our God-given dignity. Zimbabwe’s lesson is for all of us.
(You can read the full article about the study on ZimDaily at THIS LINK.)