Dr Rosalind Harrison compares and contrasts the "people's Aids conference" held at Nkozi, Uganda, in August and the "pharmaceutical companies' Aids conference" held in Durban, South Africa, in July.
There have been not one but two international Aids conferences in Africa this year. The first, in Durban in July, was sponsored by international pharmaceutical companies to the tune of millions of dollars and was attended by 12,000 delegates.
The second conference was a much less lavish affair. It took place in late August at a small rural university at Nkozi, Uganda, in beautiful countryside on the shores of Lake Victoria. There was no sponsorship; the 40 delegates paid all their own expenses and stayed in student accommodation. The purpose of the conference was to bring together academics, health workers and activists from different continents and disciplines to consider Aids in Africa from a broad perspective.
From Uganda, South Africa, America, Britain, Kenya and Nigeria, came professors of anthropological history, primary care, family medicine and the political science of human nutrition. There were also lecturers in political economy, primary health care, ethics, and sociology.
There were also Aids activists from Africa and Britain who had come to question the central tenets of Aids science after their personal lives, families and communities bad been affected by HIV diagnoses.
It would seem that no meeting of those who question any aspect of the orthodox Aids science is too small to escape the attention of the all-pervasive Aids establishment.
Although representatives of the Ugandan government and the Ugandan Aids Commission had been invited to open and attend the conference, pressure was applied to cancel the conference at the last minute. Fortunately the rights to free speech and academic freedom were not breached.
Instead a compromise of a change of title of the conference from "Making Sense: An International Conference on Alternative Views on the Origins and Causes of Aids in Africa" to "A holistic Approach: An International Conference on the Fight against Aids in Africa" was agreed, and the content of the conference proceeded as planned.
Papers were presented that discussed the stigmatisation of Africa as the origin for and centre of the Aids epidemic, and the racist stereotyping of African sexual behaviour.
Powerful critiques were presented of the fear and suspicion generated by Aids, the promotion of condomisation, and the...