port of harlem magazine


African People’s Response to HIV/AIDS at 2012 AIDS Conference


Humans have been using condoms for at least 400 years says the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council, one of hundreds of vendors at the 2012 AIDS Conference held in late July in Washington. The organizations represented the various facets involved in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS.

While most groups encourage the use of male and/or female condoms to combat the transmission of HIV/AIDS, some groups such as the Uganda Ministry of Health also encourages the controversial practice of circumcising males.  And one of those protesting the Ugandan stance was IntactAmerica, which says such groups could better spend their money on education, testing, and the distribution of condoms.  The controversy was in keeping with a question asked by Secretary of State Clinton during the conference "What would an AIDS conference be without a little protesting?” 

Elton JohnOther celebrities in attendance included Sheryl Lee Ralph, Danny Glover and Elton John. “The AIDS disease is caused by a virus, but the AIDS epidemic is not. The AIDS epidemic is fueled by stigma. By hate.  By misinformation.  By ignorance. By indifference,” said John. Given the stigma, hate, misinformation, ignorance and indifference toward AIDS and those who have the disease, various groups from around the world discussed how they approach eradicating the disease. 

A Washington, DC Response 

In the United Stated, 150 people become infected with HIV every day.  Among racial groups, African Americans face the most sever burden, representing 14% of the  population, but 44% of those living with HIV and those newly infected. The HIV incidence for Black women is 15 times that of White women. To help spread prevention information, Us Helping Us’  newest project is a youth multipurpose center where HIV/AIDS information is readily available.  

Some African Responses

The Egyptian Youth Association for Health Development, talks about AIDS in terms of health, not sex. woman wearing a female condom wig and dressWhile the Egyptians seemed shy about displaying condoms, in Cameroon, HIV educators wear female condom wigs and dresses to draw discussion. Despite the wave of anti-gay laws being passed or discussed in Africa, the South African-based African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHer), talks about HIV as a social justice issue.  It has 18 affiliates from Ghana to Tanzania. South Africans are building a Museum of AIDS in Africa to complement the virtual museum where curators encourage survivors to memorialize those lost to AIDS online

Sex Workers, Cops and Condoms 

In several cities including Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, groups are fighting police practices of confiscating sex workers’ condoms for evidence of their work.  The practice, says Megan McLemore of Human Rights Watch, discourages sex workers from keeping and therefore using condoms.  Reports state that sex workers in Kenya, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe are also facing this situation. Click here to see "Cops Arrest Sex Workers for Carrying Condoms" which features transgender sex workers, who happen to be Latino, in Queens, NY talk about this issue. 

The Red Umbrella Project amplifies the voices of people who have done transactional sex and promotes the human rights of people who trade sex “for something they need.”  Click here to hear their stories

$5 to $8 for a “Feel” in China 

“Wen Zhai,” as the conference listed his name, spoke of Momo Dance Halls where people gather and the sponsors occasionally turn off the lights so buyers can pay sellers for a “feel.”  Specifically, he spoke of this activity in Kumming, a tourist magnet where nearly five percent of the sex workers are HIV+.  On a cultural note, Wen joked that when in the West, he is often not sure when people are talking to him since in Chinese culture the family name comes first.  Thanks “Zhai Wen.

From the Port Of Harlem Archives

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