Saturday 1 December 2012

World AIDS Day: Banish the Ignorance

Today is World AIDS Day and it is important that we review where the discourse is going with regards to how it affects us either directly or indirectly.
Much as we reflect on and remember the many who have lost their lives to the disease prominent amongst whom is Fela Anikulapo-Kuti of Nigeria who we celebrate as a seer and keen observer of social issues that remain relevant today, there are people who live with HIV/AIDS and even many more who do not know that they have the virus.
How come this?
It is against this background that an article that was sent to me this morning written by a correspondent of the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper incensed me.
I have no reason to question the credentials of Dr. Nwokocha who apparently is the medical director of Hosanna Medical Centre in Lagos but I have great persuasion to question his reasoning.
On World AIDS Day, one will expect that news organs in Nigeria will find ways to educate the populace on the issues surrounding sexual health and the cause of the statistical disaster that suggested that there were up to 3.3 million diagnosed cases of HIV of which there were 220,000 deaths in 2009 and counting.
Predominantly heterosexual in Africa
Much as it is lazy and weak to moralise and get obsessed with the issue of HIV/AIDS and sexuality, the demographic in Africa is radically different from that which we find in the West, because it’s prevalence is driven by a heterosexual population in the former.
Obviously, the absence of the homosexual population from this data can be accounted for because of the cultural stigmas and homophobia driven by political opportunists and religious dogma – none of which helps any of the affected people regardless of their sexuality.
A medical emergency ignored
It goes without saying that there is a medical emergency to tackle amongst those who know they are infected but do not reveal their status, those who are infected and do not know they are and the innocent ones who by reason of being in diverse relationships with the other groups risk falling into either knowledge of their status or dying of brief but unexplained illnesses.
Amongst women, beyond maternal mortality there is also the risk of the transference of the infection from mother to child one would expect Dr. Nwokocha to be a very busy man.
Errors unforgivable
Looking at the article, I have to wonder if the horridness of the copy is journalistic incompetence compounded by medical quackery of the order that should call into review the medical nous Dr. Nwokocha has.
The introduction talks of “heterogenous sex” when heterosexual sex is intended and HIV/AIDS where HIV is Human immunodeficiency virus but referred to as “Human Imuno Deficiency Syndrome Virus” infections/AIDS, whilst hepatitis is spelt as “haptetis”.
The syndrome is related to AIDS and it quite different from HIV, which is different from other sexually transmitted infections of which there are viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites and protozoa. The learned doctor goes on about bacteria as if his knowledge is stunted.
Bad Medical School
Then he veers into the causes of homosexuality with unfounded and fantastic claims that reads like mumbo-jumbo of quack snake-oil merchants that stand at street corners fleecing the gullible with confidence tricks.
It begs the question what aspect of medical school he missed that his blinding ignorance reinforced by our obsequiousness to lettered idiots allows him to profess knowledge where he evidently has none.
As human knowledge has progressed in technology, medicine and other elements of human endeavour, we have changed and adapted to use the knowledge to advance humanity.
It is not a mental disorder
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder and this new knowledge has progressively been accepted by other mental health organisations until it was fully declassified by the World Health Organisation in 1990.
It would then seem, if a doctor were to overturn this body of expert medical knowledge and study, he might well be vying for the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine after having had his thinking and hypotheses peer reviewed by the best in the field or else he is just plain ignorant.
We can have all sorts of moral debates on the issue of sexuality but I would contend that if the Wright Brothers who invented flying were to see the aircraft we put in the air today, they would not be remiss in considering the art and science of flying today as witchcraft.
An irresponsible doctor
The biggest danger posed by Dr. Nwokocha’s assertions is in offering uneasy comfort to heterosexuals in Nigeria who are most affected by HIV/AIDS and consequently everyone else by suggesting homosexuals and so-called homosexual behaviour are the vectors for sexually transmitted infections.
That is at first utterly irresponsible and reckless but you are left to wonder why those with the means flee Nigeria for medical treatment when charlatans like Dr. Nwokocha are allowed to touch living things where rats will find better succour in the gutter than visit his medical centre for cheese.
It goes without saying that people might find certain sexual conduct abhorrent but for supposedly educated people to use that platform to foist reprehensible views that have no academic quality portraying some moral justification to promote stigmatisation and persecution is beneath contempt.
Reconsidering World AIDS Day
I am saddened that the Nigerian Vanguard did not rise to any standard of responsible and educative journalism and to have given the likes of Dr. Nwokocha a World AIDS Day forum to postulate atrocious fallacy in the face of more pressing HIV/AIDS issues in Nigeria just shows how we embrace ignorance over useful knowledge and what we need to see better for ourselves and those around us.
This World AIDS Day should have us reflect and give no space to stigma, prejudice and negative propaganda, there are people out there, suffering and dying, when you begin to single out people and groups, how long will be before you get to the woman, the child, the neighbour, the relation, the family and finally ourselves?
Let us do the needful and the rightful, get tested and support every initiative to understand and appreciate how humanity great and small is affected by HIV/AIDS – Dr. Nwokocha’s kind of thinking has no place in this better world.

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