UNAids and myth of condoms efficacy against Aids

February 8, 2009

UNAids and myth of condoms efficacy against Aids

EAST AFRICAN
Posted Saturday, February 7 2009

�It is true that the way that UNAids dealt with my report says a lot about the culture of UNAids and how they operate � and that much of what it says is not very good,� laments Dr Hearst. �On the other hand, I have refrained until now from trying to make this a bigger issue than it should be. And I don�t have a great desire to participate in any unnecessary UNAids bashing.�

Prior to the commissioning of the UNAids condom review study, Norman Hearst had actively participated in the organisation�s affairs spanning the course of several years. But since that time he feels that he has been blacklisted by UNAids.

In fact, some UNAids officials are said to have denied they had ever funded the study.

�I don�t know if these individuals were misinformed or deliberately lying,� he said.

Why would UNAids, a renowned global organisation dedicated to educating governments around the world about the greatest plague of our times, behave in such a manner?

Critics of the organisation believe that the facts unearthed by Norman Hearst and others were simply too hard for UNAids to swallow since they contradicted the organisation�s belief system � that condoms and not behaviour change are the ultimate solution to preventing the spread of the pandemic in sub Saharan Africa and other developing regions. In short, it was a clear case of ideology taking precedence over epidemiological facts.

�Top brass at UNAids have admitted to me privately that they knew in the 1990s that in Africa, long term concurrent relationships were more dangerous than casual/commercial ones,� laments Helen Epstein, speaking from her home in Harlem, New York. Epstein is the author of the recent book The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West and the fight against Aids.

�I asked them why nothing was done to raise awareness about it, and received no reply�. This [research on and educational programmes geared towards long-term, multiple concurrency] could have happened 10 years ago, had Western Aids experts shared the information, which some independent academics were urging them to do. Would it have made a difference for HIV prevention? We may never know, but according to the charter of the World Health Organisation, access to accurate health information is a human right.�

Critics of UNAids have concluded that the main reason why it, and other international bodies ignore behaviour change is that primary prevention of any infectious diseases is perhaps the greatest health challenge of our time. Getting human beings to change deeply ingrained behaviour (sexual or otherwise) is a monumental task if there ever was one.

Historically, the prevention and control of diseases linked to human behaviours, such as sexually transmitted diseases has been largely unsuccessful.

For example, doctors dealing with the spread of STDs were aptly skilled in diagnosis and treatment but were inept at eliminating or reducing what is called sexual risk behaviour.

This applies not only sexual behaviour but human behaviour such as cigarette smoking or adopting a healthy diet and exercise. Such behavioural changes don�t come overnight and might take decades and even generations to adopt.

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