Sunday, January 29, 2006

On Haiti and Religious Groups and AIDS Funds

I don't have time to post anything extensive today, so I'm linking to two stories I found interesting today.

Scott Nelson/World Picture News, for The New York Times

The first is a long piece, by New York Times reporters Walt Bodganich and Jenny Nordberg on the US's role in the current turmoil in Haiti. "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos" lays out clearly what I and others have been saying all along, and belies its wishy-washy title; the International Republican Institute, a Warrantless Wiretapper-affiliated outfit that had championed the overthrow of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela played an active role in the intransigence of the opposition and in democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ouster. It's beyond disheartening, but offers clear parallels to the debacle in Iraq. Read it while it's still online.

The second, by AP writer Rita Beamish was on Yahoo! News. It's title is "Religious Groups Get Chunk of AIDS Money." It was a more disturbing read than I imagined. (As Keguro points out in the comments section, there's a corollary article on American missionaries in Africa on yesterday's New York Times Magazine, by Daniel Bergner, called simply "The Call." I read about two paragraphs and put it down, but I'll read it through either tonight or tomorrow. Kai in NYC responds that the New York Review of Books featured a number of articles on the AIDS pandemic in Africa, a number of which I read and highly recommend. Here are a few: Helen Epstein's 2000 article on "The Mystery of AIDS in Africa"; Helen Epstein and Lincoln Chin's 2002 piece, "Can AIDS Be Stopped?"; Keith Hansen's and Nancy Scheper-Hughes's response and Epstein's response, in 2003, to an Epstein article, "AIDS in South Africa: The Invisible Cure"; and Helen Epstein's 2005 piece, "The Lost Children of AIDS.")

Check both out. Thoughts?


And for something completely different, Ego, how huge can you grow? Mr. Champion of the World himself, Kanye West. Don't hate the playa, hate the...well, you know. (Thanks, Byron, for the link!)

Photograph by David LaChapelle


  1. It's past my bedtime. Ignore whatever is incoherent.

    Have you seen the NYT magazine article on religion in Africa? Here

    Despite my many criticisms of Christianity, especially its complicity with colonialism, neo-colonialism, authoritarian regimes, neo-liberal policies, and globalization . . .

    let me start again,

    Religious organizations have established networks in many parts of Africa where governments simply don't care. They provide access to education, food, clean water, and health services, and yes, they also recruit. At the same time, condom programs don't really do too well for a variety of complex reasons bound to tradition and patriarchy. (The Village Voice has been running a series on AIDS in Africa, worth looking at for thinking about women's options.)

    Abstinence education *can* usually be justified by traditional practices in ways that condom use might not be. And, I suspect, right now AIDS efforts in Africa need to examine the importance of deploying tradition or at least engaging with traditional practices. As a model, we can think of how anti-FGM organizations have modified the rituals to satisfy tradition without mutilation.

    So, on, the one hand, that AIDS funding goes to faith-based organizations saddens me, especially because I doubt queer-targeted programs get any of the money (the few that exist). On the other hand, being aware of how many people believe in religion and will submit to religious authority as opposed to, say, health officials, I can't be down on the effort.

    Multi-pronged approaches. (I hate growing up. I hate having to be mature and sensible about stuff.)

  2. Keguro, I'd sound a lot more coherent with the article here in from of me (in the New York Review of Books, concerning AIDS organizations in Africa) but, as it plays out in practice, there are some serious problems with your formulation. I can't recall the exact country (Uganda?) but they'd recently established an enormously successful condom proganda campaign, and were seeing AIDS infection rates plummmet, when (Washington based) funding switched from direct to the government and other secular organizations to (to the most backward minded of) Christian organizations. The Christian groups of course ceased the condom campaign and had only one message: abstinence! What's the opposite of plummeting--rocketing? Infection rates are now rocketing.

    I was hearing something recently, too, about using traditional notions of the importance of premarital virginity in South Africa to curb infection rates. My take on the debacle this approach apparently became lies in my belief that invoking traditional notions of women's roles (and sex/sexuality roles in general) are never going to defeat these intransigent, latterday problems. I think there needs to be a sharp cutting of the dross (and likewise right here in the US with our theology-based sex education and public policy) and a collective evolution into thinking and policies that actually work, not that satisfy our parochial prejudices, before we'll see the back of the AIDS epidemic.

    Let me dig out those articles and re-read them ...

    Kai in NYC