AIDS activist addresses students

By the

March 15, 2001

Last night, Dr. Aloku, Secretary of the International African AIDS Network said that in order for the AIDS movement to move significantly forward, it was necessary for activists to “think out of the box.”

Aloku, who is also the president of the Nigerian Democratic Movement, said that it was necessary for Africans in the new diaspora to be involved in the fight against AIDS in the African continent. “The International African AIDS Network really wants to work with students and youth to sensitize Africans [in the United States],” Aloku said. “African students, there is a job that you can do,” he said. “Africans in the U.S. can talk to their ambassadors,” Aloku added.

Aloku said that the two most significant factors in the AIDS issue are the rate of risk and the absolute numbers within each African country. “In some countries, companies are factoring in numbers of workers who will die [from AIDS]. Some have spare workers on the side,” he said. “Some people say the numbers are inaccurate. I tell them that if something is not done, these numbers can be quickly attained. One million can quickly multiply into two million,” he said.

Aloku said that the fatal disease spreads at such a rapid rate amongst the African population for several reasons, some due to cultural differences. He cited examples of differences in sexual mores, mother-to-child transmission, polygamy and needle re-use between individuals and in the African health industry.

“If you can slow the rate of increase, that is good,” Aloku said.

He said that the ABC’s that anti-AIDS movements cite for preventing the spread of AIDS are abstinence, behavior modification and condoms. “There is a lot of cultural opposition to condoms, as well as the problem of expenses,” he said. “[Condoms] are made in Africa, but they will still be expensive,” he added.

Aloku said that the most important means of prevention is the distribution of contraceptive devices. “There’s a limit to how much you can preach abstinence. It’s about physical intervention,” he said.

Aloku said that although progress had been made in the fight against AIDS in Africa, there is still much work to be done. He cited a recent example of Yale University students protesting their university’s investment in AIDS drugs companies which are suing certain African governments. “There needs to be activism,” he said.

“With AIDS, orphans are created, widows are created, widowers are created and sadness is caused,” said Aloku, “we must think out of the box to assist.”

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