African Aids, Food, Fiji

Jim heartfield jim at
Sun Aug 27 05:18:43 PDT 2000

The Week ending 27 August 2000

The African Aids Myth

On August 19 President Clinton Global signed the AIDS and Tuberculosis Relief Act of 2000, 'the latest U.S. effort in the long-term global fight against HIV/AIDS and its related threat of tuberculosis'. 'We are at the beginning of a global pandemic, not the end', said the President. 'What we see in Africa today is just the tip of the iceberg.'

When AIDS was first diagnosed in America and Europe government health agencies also warned that this was just the tip of the iceberg. But the predicted AIDS epidemic never did break out of the high risk categories - intravenous drug users and gay men. The AIDS panic did generate anti- gay prejudice and demands for government intervention. In Britain today, AIDS charities, like 'Body Positive', are closing down due to lack of demand. In Africa, however, AIDS appears to be a greater threat than ever, with the WHO predicting that AIDS will kill millions, effectively wiping out a generation. The Economist reports that 'AIDS is by far the most serious threat to life in Africa' (7 September 1996).

Charles Geshekter, US professor and advisor to the South African government, disagrees. The numbers suffering from AIDS have been massively inflated by the World Health Organisation. For example, in 1987, the WHO estimated that one million Ugandans were HIV positive. The British Medical Journal reported that 'by 2010...8.5m people will be missing from Uganda's otherwise expected population of 33m because of HIV infection and Aids' (A Johnson and K De Cock, 10 December 1994).Ten years later the number HIV positive remained unchanged, though the cumulative total of AIDS cases reported numbered only 55 000.

The Global Programme on Aids of the WHO developed an Aids projection model that estimates the annual progression of Aids. It predicts 6.5m new Aids deaths in Africa a year by 1997, which would reduce population growth in urban areas by over 30 per cent (R Feacher and D Jamison, Disease and Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1994). Despite repeated predictions of massive mortality increases, since 1980 the death rate in Sub-Saharan Africa has fallen from 18 per thousand per annum to 15 in 1998 and in South Africa, from 12 per thousand in 1980 to 9 per thousand in 1998. In fact the total number of deaths from AIDS reported, cumulatively, that is since the disease was recognised, is just 794 444 as of 15 November 1999 (Weekly Epidemiological Record, 26 November 1999), or around 50 000 cases a year, rather than the predicted 6.5 million deaths. By comparison a quarter of a million people die from Tuberculosis in Africa each year (leading Aids researchers to conflate TB with Aids, the better to make the case).

With less than a third of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa medically certified, evidence of AIDS mortality is speculative, based upon 'verbal autopsy'. Western researchers' diagnosis of AIDS is similarly impressionistic, being based on symptoms of weight loss, chronic diarrhoea, fever and persistent coughs - all symptomatic of other malnutrition induced diseases common in Africa. The 'Bangui definition' of AIDS in Africa was formulated at a WHO conference in 1985. Unsurprisingly, many Africans diagnosed with AIDS under the Bangui definition prove to be negative when tested for HIV.

Even where HIV tests are performed, these are questionable. Because identification of HIV virus is so difficult, doctors test for the body's reactions to HIV rather than the virus itself. But the Journal of Infectious Diseases reported in February 1994 that as many as 70 per cent of HIV-positive test results were inaccurate because other diseases common in Africa created rogue results.

Evidence that the diagnosis of immune deficiency is not related to HIV virus comes from the distinct pattern of supposed cases of African Aids. Where infection in America and Europe is concentrated amongst high-risk groups, what is diagnosed as Aids in Africa is equal between sexes, and predominantly in heterosexual and non-drug using populations. To explain these results researchers have tried to argue that African sexual practices are peculiar - the common charge of promiscuity - or that African patterns of infection simply anticipate the future course of the disease in Europe.

The myth of a heterosexual Aids epidemic in the North is beyond revival, but the accusation that Africans have special sexual practices continues to exercise the Western imagination. Professor Nathan Clumeck of Universite Libre in Brussels told Le Monde 'sex and love do not mean the same thing to Africans as they do to West Europeans ... the notion of guilt doesn't exist in the same way'. (14 December 1994)

The motivations behind the President's preoccupation with Aids in Africa are to re-legitimise Western intervention in the region by de- legitimising self-government. 'The United States' says the President, 'cannot ... battle AIDS alone'. 'Every bilateral donor, every multilateral lending agency... and every host government of a developing nation must do its part to provide the leadership and resources necessary to turn this tide.' Creating a moral climate in which Third World leaders like Thabo Mbeki get told what they 'must do' by the leader of the free world is the culmination of the hysteria over Aids in African.

Through the discourse of Aids treatment, the US disguises its domination of Africa in the bogus language of care, because, as Clinton says 'the suffering of citizens in our global village touches us all'. 'The pages of history' Clinton adds 'reveal moments in time when the global community came together and collectively found "the higher angels of our nature".' Given the previous experience of the West's caring interventions in Africa, there is much to be feared in the decision to make Aids in Africa a state department priority. The President's warning that 'When it comes to AIDS, neither the crisis nor the opportunity to address it have borders', amounts to a threat to Africa's independence.

Reading: 'A Critical Reappraisal of African Aids Research and Western Sexual Sterotypes', Charles Geshekter

The truth about the Aids panic in Africa Stuart Derbyshire Living Marxism issue 79, May 1995

Going Organic

Britain's Food Standards Agency reported on 25 August that there was no evidence that organic food was any healthier than mass farmed food - to the dismay of the country's growing organic farming lobby, the Soil Association. In fact evidence collected by the US Center for Disease Control shows that people eating natural and organic foods are eight times more likely to contract poisoning from the E Coli 0157:H7 bacterium (Dennis Avery, 'The coming collapse of western Europe's farming policies', Outlook, 1(9), 1997).

A new study published in the Review of Radical Political Economics gives an alternative explanation for the growth of organic farming in Britain ('Two Cheers for Agri-business', Spring 2000). Like farmers across Europe, Britain's small producers are threatened with extinction by the lower costs and increased output of larger agri-businesses. Diversification of family farms into organic production is assisted by government grants intended to stave off a rural crisis. The rise of organic farming ties farmers' futures to a precarious food panic.

The Review of Radical Political Economics is available from JAI Press, 55 Old Post Road - No.2, P.O. Box 1678, Greenwich Connecticut 06836-1768, United States

Indigenism in Fiji

Maori sovereignty campaigner Tame Iti flew from New Zealand to Fiji to lend support to George Speight's abortive coup, seeing it as an example of the indigenous fight-back - a repeat of the support Maori rights activists gave to the Rabuka coup in 1987. New Zealand radicals charge the indigenous rights movement with siding with reaction. An editorial in Revolution by New Zealand activist Phil Ferguson points out that Speight (now behind bars) was no grassroots champion but a local businessman who stirred up hatred against Indo-Fijians. 'The Indo- Fijians, not the forces represented by Speight and the Great Council are the out-group in Fiji' writes Ferguson. 'By attacking them, the pseudo- traditional elite keep the minds of ordinary Fijians of economic equality ... which benefits the chiefly elite'. The report points out that despite Speight's arrest 'the military and their regime are in control, there is no sign of the restoration of the democratically elected Chaudry government.'

Revolution, which features special reports on multiculturalism and rights, is available from the Radical Media Collective, PO Box 513, Christchurch, New Zealand -- James Heartfield

Great Expectations: the creative industries in the New Economy is available from Design Agenda, 4.27 The Beaux Arts Building, 10-18 Manor Gardens, London, N7 6JT Price 7.50 GBP + 1GBP p&p

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