Sunday 8 March 2009

Nigeria: The Guardian, Conscience nurtured by half-truths

Guided from the truth

When my friend highlighted the context of an article that appeared in the Nigerian Guardian of the 6th of March 2009, I opined saying maybe the paper was not necessarily serving the function of its masthead [1] which is Conscience, Nurtured by Truth but just being a general publishing forum of opinions no matter how crass.

The editorial board of the Nigerian Guardian allowed and in allowing, endorsed the publication of an article by a Christian Nwoke who purports to work for the Project for Human Development in Lagos titled Finally, a social vaccine for HIV [2].

Reading through his diatribe I felt the article might have been well placed to appear in some newspaper some 25 years ago. I would not know the function of the agency he works for but he is clearly not aware of the demographic he writes about.

The women are the most affected

Indeed, there is sexual promiscuity amongst the youth and there is serious child sexual abuse in Nigeria which does not get tackled with the urgency and exposure that it requires, but this is hardly the face of HIV in Nigeria.

If Mr. Nwoke had bothered to do the most basic research before he fulminated, he would have realised that in Nigeria it is the women [3] that carry the greater burden of HIV/AIDS by over 50% of those infected and children account for 8%.

His article concentrated on the scourge affecting the men when the social issue is the women who in their matrimonial homes cannot exercise the restraint on their promiscuous husbands who sleep around and bring things home. Or women who are egregiously abused by a paternalistic culture that demands sexual satisfaction regardless of the woman's desires or rights.

Condoms fail but still protect

There is a mind and discipline element to Abstinence but human beings have a sexual inclination and appetite, where it needs to be satisfied for all sorts of reasons it is good to Be faithful but where that fails the next line of action is to use Condoms.

These are the ABC’s of protection; using all means as a pragmatic response to realities – social, moral, political and economic – rather than a puritanical one solution view of abstinence which we fail to accept is ineffective.

Mr. Nwoke expressed his ignorance in full measure when he suggested that condoms are causative of HIV and hence advocated they should be banned because they are known to fail.

Anything can fail

Indeed, condoms are known to fail which is why we are advised to use a lot of lubricant and check during usage that it is still effectively doing its job, but I doubt if condom failure is the main cause of HIV infection, I would suggest it is the lack of use of condoms.

Abstinence can fail if one is unfortunate to have a tainted blood transfusion, being faithful can fail if one of the partners is infected by other means than sexual transmission and condoms do fail; there is also a contraceptive element to using condoms talk less of the social consequences of children people cannot afford to rear – However, HIV/AIDS comes from either participant being infected – never from just the act of sex between uninfected partners, no matter how promiscuous they might be – one should debunk the unfounded view of sex equals infection.

By the time he uses the analogy of failed parachutes where he says if he is told one out of 6 parachutes failed he would not jump out of a plane, (parachutes are used all the time for jump out of planes, stopping high speed vehicles and many other things, we we adopted such a unadventurous view to life we would get nowhere; I guess because of car accidents he does not drive and for the fear of electrocution he does not use the mains) – the story of his ignominy was complete but he would not draw my ire.

The Guardian draws my ire

That is to be given to the Nigerian Guardian Editorial Board headed by a Dr. Reuben Abati [4] who as watchdogs and guardians of the principles and focus of the newspaper should not have allowed such tripe to feature especially not in a forum like the Internet which has a global reach. Indeed we should promote the freedom of expression but there should be a line drawn at poorly researched expressions of ignorance.

In this one case they have allowed a matter of conscience for Mr. Nwoke to be nurtured by half-truths, fallacies and ignorance then given it a global platform – this is appalling at best and should be harshly excoriated at worst.

A malevolent protégé, I perceive

As for the agency Mr. Nwoke works for, human development can be anything from serious humanitarian activity through eugenics to being an offshoot Dr. Mengele’s laboratory [5] – with such views expressed, one can easily see where Mr. Nwoke’s mind is.

The Guardian should really ensure that their columnists have researched their copy diligently and would impart knowledge rather than a diatribe of ignorant generalisations that have no basis in fact.

My friend who alerted me to that apology of an opinion has worked with persons with HIV and AIDS in South America, Africa and Oceania in the last 8 years and was incensed that such nonsensical views could appear in a newspaper that is supposed to have a reputation and a standard – the qualifier supposed for now stands as a grudging compliment.


[1] The Nigerian Guardian masthead

[2] Guardian Newspapers: Finally, a social vaccine for HIV

[3] HIV InSite – Nigeria

[4] Reuben Abati - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] Nazi human experimentation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How safe are condoms against HIV - HIV AIDS Care

How Effective Are Latex Condoms in Preventing HIV? | Questions and Answers | CDC HIV/AIDS

Note: If the source article disappears, I have already printed a PDF version of this infraction to good journalism.

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