Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When to speak about sex!

On 23 Nov in Stockholm I spoke on the Global HIV epidemic to an audience dominated by young African professionals in Enterprise and Labor organizations. The host was Labour Market Dialogue http://www.lmd.se/ formed by Confederation of Enterprise and Trade Unions in Sweden and funded by Sida to run international development activities. My speech coincided with the release of AIDS epidemic update 2005. http://www.unaids.org/Epi2005/doc/report.html It indicates declining HIV rates in some hardly hit countries in Africa, but still increasing rates in South Africa.

When challenging the meeting with 28% infected adults in South Africa and less than 0,3% in Egypt (100 fold difference!) a good discussion emerged about the sexual pattern that drive the severe HIV epidemic in parts of Southern Africa. The HIV rates vary greatly in Africa, and so must the sexual patterns do! There are 20 fold higher HIV rate in Zambia compared to Senegal!
But the discussions in the cofee break were even better. Young professionals from Southern Africa stated ??The male culture in highly affected areas of Southern Africa is that of many small houses, i.e simultaneous sexual relations with several young women. Most men in my country used to have as many sex partners as their economy could allow. That must and will stop, because these people are now dying!?
Discussions on HIV in southern Africa should have short sessions and long coffee breaks! It remains too delicate to discuss the sexual patterns that are driving the epidemic in formel settings. That is to talk about what in academic jargon is ?inter-generational transactional sex? in stright language is rarely done in international meetings. But I was quite impressed by the insights and understanding expressed by the young African professionals in the break. They will find ways to stop this epidemic, although they still do not speak with laud voices.