Sunday, December 02, 2007

Real Allies in the War on AIDS

People have stated that I was too harsh on Desmond Tutu and his anti-HIV activities. Thats okay! You like Tutus work, fantastic! I, however, think that his words and actions against the radical religious groups invading Africa are muted due to the fact that he himself is part of a religious organization.

It was half-assed of me to snap at him without showing an example of an organization and a leader that I like in the War on HIV/AIDS. I eventually did in the comments, but I think it deserves its own post.

This is an Anti-AIDS organization.

Treatment Action Campaign

I know you all can click over to Wiki to read all about it, but heres why I like them:

  • Founded by an atheist. A gay atheist. A gay atheist infected with HIV.
  • While TAC makes compromises to include religious groups in TACs activities, they have no problem calling bullshit bullshit.
  • Oh just being mouthy anti-magic groups isnt enough to win my approval-- Check out the top link: AIDStruth. Yeah baby!
  • They helped refute Farbers Denialist crap.
  • An atheist posting anti-Denialist stuff is great, but what I care about are actions. This group is all about action and civil disobedience.
  • They dont just debunk Denialists, they go after them.
  • They defend everyone. Its easy to care about mothers and infants. Its hard to care about convicted criminals.
  • Click around on their site-- there are lots of cool finds.

*shrug* When real people are providing real help, I just dont find Tutu's words particularly remarkable, other than the fact he is a magician speaking some sense on a few topics.

Save praise for the praiseworthy.


alloy said...

As a South African my opinion of Tutu is intwined with our country's history, and by stories of people who have personally met the man and attested to his dynamic personality.

I do not always agree with what he says, but I do believe in his honesty and integrity.

Here's an article from yesterday which may offer you fresh perspective.

To take an few exerpts:

"Slamming the country's churches for their lack of involvement in the fight against Aids, Tutu said the churches had wasted many valuable opportunities.

"Instead of saying Aids is a punishment from God for people's sin, we must acknowledge the disease for what it is.

"For goodness sake, what has a baby done to deserve this? If this is how God punishes, then I will not worship him," he said.

He said it was time for churches to stop turning HIV-positive people into modern day lepers and to start treating them with respect.

These are pretty harsh words from the retired head of the Anglican communion in SADC. Bearing in mind that the gentleman is retired and in his 70s. No one would fault him for sitting at home on his arse doing nothing. Instead he's taking a stand.

The TAC's response:

"Praising Tutu, TAC leader Zachie Achmat said a profound statement had been made. "The criticism of government is spot on. It is clear that we need leaders to lead."

I cannot express my immense frustration at my government's response to HIV-AIDS. A president who denies it even exists, a Health Minister who thinks garlic Beetroot and African potatoes can replace ARVs.

It's almost as if the 'Powers That Be" want this plague to continue.

Place this in a setting where TB is developing strains resistant to every Anti-biotic currently available. Cultural barriers to Monogamy, woman's reproductive and sexual rights, (including use of condoms), resulting in a generation of children who are being raised by aged grandparents, and who are unlikely to see their teens.

Then I see idiot conservative websites gleefully proclaiming HIV-AIDS as Gods punishment for gays.


Maybe Tutu is merely a "Magician", but if exercising his moral authority saves one child from a painful deseased ridden life which doesn't extend much into their teens, then frankly he's got the 'MOJO'

Che said...


I one of those people that felt you were being unfair to Desmond Tutu. I think that there are separate issues here for me: the character of Desmond Tutu and the HIV epidemic in South Africa.

Like alloy, I am also South African. And as one of the 47 million people that Desmond Tutu helped free from the yoke of apartheid, I found your blithe description of Tutu as a “vulture” ignorant. It is obvious that you have had no experience, or any knowledge of just how dehumanising apartheid was. And you clearly have no idea of the role that Desmond Tutu played in its demise. If Tutu did nothing else for the rest of his life, he has already helped save millions. I can only imagine how much more devastating HIV would have been if apartheid had not been dismantled. You also seem to be unaware of how Tutu has taken on (the HIV denialist) Thabo Mbeki and now Jacob Zuma who is tipped to be the next president of South Africa. Zuma has some seriously ignorant views about homosexuals, women in short skirts and HIV prevention. He has for some unknown reason (at least to me) considerable support ... how many other 70 year-olds do you that are still out there, fighting for their people.

The second issue is with respect to the drivers of the disease within South Africa. The comments that you linked by Bishop Napier rank among the most stupid I have read about HIV in South Africa (but I assure that they are not the most stupid). However, there are much more important drivers of the disease in this country than religion. Religion was not mentioned at all in the spread of the infection in a talk I saw by Salim Abdool Karim. I am waiting for his book to get to be available in our library. In addition, whilst there may be missionaries in South Africa, they are not this pervasive invasion force that you seem to assume (in South Africa anyway). The role of religion in the spread of HIV in South Africa, from what I have read anyway, is a small issue compared to skewed power relationships between men and women in the country. So yes, if you or anyone else chooses to rave away at the religious nuts, it quite honestly doesn’t make a significant difference to spread of the disease in South Africa.

BTW I also think that the Treatment Action Campaign are awesome.

Blake Stacey said...

OK, I'm just a kid from the Alabama suburbs, so I'm not gonna talk about South Africa (it's great to hear from people there, though — occasionally, the Internet can be truly amazing!). However, I do have one request:

Please, please, for the love of knowledge and factual accuracy, don't abbreviate "Wikipedia" as "Wiki". That's like saying "Look in Book for more to read" when you really mean, "See the relevant article in volume 17 of the Encyclopaedia Britannica." A wiki is a general type of website, an idea of how to edit material collaboratively, and this general idea has been implemented many times, in many different programming languages: MediaWiki (PHP), Instiki (Ruby), Twiki (Perl), etc.

OK, that's all. Rant concluded.

But here's a picture.