بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Address to: SWAA (Society of Women and Aids in Africa)
and The National Aids Control Program
A Consultational Meeting for Preparation of the International Ninth Conference for Women, Children and Aids,
To be held in Khartoum, May 2003
Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, or more intimately: Brothers and sisters,
Good evening to all.
When I was asked to speak to you, I speculated about what wisdom I can add to your considerable erudition on the subject of AIDS –the plague of the modern World, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa. When you have nothing wise to say, it is wise to say nothing.
Scanning your considerable literature, I have nothing to add to the scientific nature of the problem, nor to the statistical measure of the pandemic. Nor is it possible to enrich your knowledge about the aggravating factors of poverty, and sheer ignorance.
However, there are eight points, which I would like to share with you in the context of dealing with the AIDS pandemic.
THE FIRST POINT: Aids and Lifestyles
When I first heard of the disease in the eighties (it was discovered in 21st June 1981), it was from a London Hotel Manager, who said to me that he was gay, and that a new disease has afflicted his type.. An incurable disease Divinely ordained for his type!. Consequently, he has decided to eschew his unnatural behavior. Since then, I followed the matter; the ascription of supernatural causes to the problem is counter-productive. It encourages obscurantism, and secrecy about the disease. Whether the virus was the result of experimentation gone astray, or an unwanted visitation from other primates, remains to be researched. The transmission of the disease is due to certain life styles. God’s relation to the World does not subsume natural causation. The Laws of Nature themselves are integral to His Will. “Our Lord is He who gave each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright” (Koran 50:20).
Aids is the effect of a promiscuous life style and drug abuse. Therefore, it is entirely within Human competence to control.
However, this is easier said than done, because, human sexuality, especially male sexuality, tends to overflow. Further, the Human Predicament has continuously created conditions, which, in various degrees, sought some kind of escape. Drugs and Alcohol belong to this syndrome. All relevant psychological, intellectual, moral, spiritual and social forces should be mobilized in the endeavor to get rid of the unwanted life styles.
THE SECOND POINT: Absence of Sexual Education
As I grew up, I had to educate myself about certain vital aspects of life –sex education- entirely on my own. This gap is integral to the autobiography of all my cultural mates. Sexual taboos are responsible for the banishing of sex education from normal upbringing.
Gender is the primary basis of personal identity, sex is the most natural biological phenomenon, and yet the subject is wrapped up like a pharonic mummy!. This gap has helped all negative aspects about reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases.
I have decided to tackle the matter and am convinced that sex education is a corner stone for human individuals and their society.
THIRD POINT: Religious Teaching towards Aids
Religion teaches abstinence. No doubt this helped control much abuse. However, a certain percentage of people will always digress. Some church opinion condemns any sexual activity, which is not aimed at reproduction. They rule out any sex for the sake of pleasure. Islam recognizes and encourages sexual pleasure within wedlock. Does it allow any type of instructions to those, who venture outside wedlock?
In the context of the Aids pandemic, their sexual misdemeanors endanger themselves and society. It is possible to address them in terms of the following authentic principles:
- The principle of the need to commit the lesser two evils.
- The injunction: (And do not throw yourselves into destruction) (Koran 2:195).
- The principle that you should neither act nor react in a harmful way.
Therefore, it is our duty to preach abstinence outside wedlock, and in case of failure, to observe the lesser of two evils.
FOURTH POINT: Dictatorship Role
There are several characteristics common to all dictatorships –I have noted them elsewhere- among these characteristics are:
They attempt to redress their lack of legitimacy by painting a rosy picture of achievement.
They manipulate the media to claim undeserved praise.
A corollary of this is to banish all criticism. The ideal behavior they would recommend is that of the three proverbial monkeys. Hush Hush business is their motto.
Transparency is their anathema. It is the equal of subversion. That is why Dr. Banda’s Malawi has become an infamous example. The infamous ruler of YATHRIB: the strong man of YATHRIB has reduced the population to talk in hisses and walk in measured steps. There is some transparency in Uganda, and more so in Senegal, therefore there is a more enlightened approach about AIDS policies. Along with poverty, ignorance, dictatorship should rank as an AIDS friendly agent.
FIFTH PONT: Women and Sexual Behavior
Men should generally recognize that as far as sex is concerned, women are the gatekeepers. The more they are enabled to stand up to the would be gatecrashers, the less gatecrashing there will be.
SIXTH POINT: Islam Lowers Infection Rate
Sub-Saharan Africa’s 10% of world population, has 70% of the world s HIV infected people? This is bad enough. Sixteen countries mostly in Eastern and Southern Africa have HIV infection rates of 10% – reached 35% in BOTSWANA. Some scientists explain the comparative lower rate of infection in West Africa by the prevalence there of male circumcision. (Boston Globe 5/11/1999 And Sunday Times 26/3/2000). Male circumcision does not influence sexual behavior. It is more likely the influence of ISLAM affecting life styles.
SEVENTH POINT: War Effect
War and famine based displacement produces social environments conducive to sexual misbehavior. The continent needs to focus on the elimination of wars as a health priority. The wars of Africa will continue to subvert all Development and Health programs in the continent.
Between dictators keen on governing without legitimacy, and War Lords profiteering by conflict, the Peoples of Africa are devastated by 14 unresolved conflicts, which, among other calamities feed the Aids pandemic.
EIGHTH POINT: Sudan’s Situation:
The Aids scene in Sudan is part of the War scene, both in terms of the incidence among soldiers and the rapid population movement. According to the “National Aids Control”, the current number of population is ½ a million infected, and 1.6% HIV adult prevalence. This could be the tip of an iceberg. Geographical location, war conditions and high population movement are conducive to more infection. A supreme National and International effect is required to save the situation.
your meeting and the scheduled conference should seek to establish a common intellectual position on the issue of AIDS, and seek to raise the issue to become a National program for African states, and work towards a coalition of states, society, the international NGO communities, the U.N, and world organizations to galvanize all effort to counter the AIDS pandemic in Africa. As a member of civil society in the Sudan, I promise to give you all the necessary support, and to pray for your continuous success.
Friendship Hall, Khartoum
18th June 2002