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Articles : International
 DRC election date finally set 
Taiwan independence on African agenda, HIV/AIDS missing from media, DR Congo election date set

Chinese president on a three-nation tour of Africa
After visiting the U.S. and Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Chinese president Hu Jintao went on to Africa to boost trade and political ties. His tour included Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya.

China, hungry for natural resources and looking for markets to offset its products, has made some significant investments in Africa, especially in the oil and infrastructure sector. African countries for their part are looking towards China so they don’t have to solely rely on old, often colonial ties with Europe anymore. Plus, Chinese investment and credit comes with much less strings, like transparency and accountability, attached. Now China is looking to use this economic weight to count for more politically.

Despite the fact that Morocco doesn’t have oil, China’s main interest in Africa, and Moroccan industry has been hit by the spread of cheap Chinese products like clothing, both countries are looking for strong common ties. One of the things that Morocco does have and China is looking for is fish. Morocco has huge Atlantic fisheries, but there is one serious problem: the contested Western Sahara, which in total is about half the size of Morocco but holds about half of its coastline. If Morocco is forced to give up its claim on Western Sahara, it stands to loose the lucrative fishing grounds of the Western Sahara coast as well. And that’s where Chinese and Moroccan political interests meet.

While Morocco hopes that China, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, will support their plan for only a limited autonomy for the Western Sahara, China is looking for support for its stand towards Taiwan, which it considers to be a part of China and not an independent state. And support is exactly what it got from the Moroccan government. According to Reuters, officials with the Chinese delegation said Morocco had reaffirmed support for its “One China” policy. In return president Hu said China supported a “solution to the Sahara problem that is consensual and achieved through peaceful means and dialogue”, the official Moroccan news agency reported.

China got the same support from the two other countries it visited, Nigeria and Kenya. Oil was the main point on the agenda in Nigeria. In return for the right to further explore Nigerian oil fields, China committed $4 billion to infrastructure projects, a deal that was met with a violent response by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who detonated a car bomb near an oil refinery. “We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta … The Chinese government by investing in stolen crude places its citizens in our line of fire,” said MEND.

Kenya, which also signed a deal on oil exploration rights, was very clear about its support of Chinese policy towards Taiwan. A joint communiqué between Kenya and China signed in Nairobi, said the Kenyan government opposed “in every form, the independence of Taiwan,” and that “the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory.”

HIV and AIDS: Those most affected are least heard
According to a study by South Africa’s Media Monitoring Project (MMP) and Gender Links which monitored 37,001 news items, only 3% of the news in southern Africa focusses on HIV/AIDS. “Lesotho had the highest percentage of HIV/Aids stories with 19% and Mauritius had the lowest with just 1%,” said the director of MMP, William Bird.

South Africa alone currently bears about 10% of the global burden of HIV infection. Over 6 million people carry the disease. Still, only 2% of the news in SA focuses on HIV/AIDS. Of course the media is not the only one in SA who’s in a state of denial. Not to long ago, former deputy president Jacob Zuma said that he minimised the risk of contracting the AIDS virus during unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, by taking a shower afterwards.

There is good news as well though. Top United Nations official on HIV/AIDS, Peter Piot, said falling infection rates in parts of Africa show education campaigns have started to impact sexual behaviour, with young Africans delaying their first sexual experiences and practising safer sex.

DRC election date finally set
First, parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on the 29th of April, with a second round at the beginning of June. Later, after calls by Etienne Tshisekedi’s main opposition party (UDPS) to boycott the registration and the poll, that date became the 18th of June, with no date for a second round. Now, the Independent Electoral Commission said the elections will be held July 30.

Because the UDPS failed, or refused, to register for both the presidential campaign and the parliamentary campaign, international observers fear that the election might lead to violence. That’s why the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to send a 1,500 European Union rapid reaction force to the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the 17,000 peacekeepers already stationed in the country.

Can the Millennium Man save the MDG’s?
The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) are to halve extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and maternal health, reduce child mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development. All this by 2015. But despite various international campaigns, they are loosing momentum. With every report that comes out, the goals seem harder to achieve.

But, as Jeffrey Sachs – a.k.a. the Millennium Man, shows us, the battle is still not over. His Millennium Villages project has demonstrated how localized projects with relatively small amounts of money spent on health, education, fertiliser and other essential services can dramatically accelerate progress towards achieving most of the MDG’s.

Pfizer 1996 Nigerian drug experiment violated international law
According to The Washington Post, Nigerian medical experts concluded 5 years ago that Pfizer Inc. violated international law during a 1996 epidemic by testing an unapproved drug on children with brain infections without consent of the parents or the knowledge of the Nigerian government, causing 5 children to die and leaving several other with brain damage. The report was never made public before.

In a press statement Pfizer denies all accusations and claims that the drug, Trovan (trovafloxacin), saved lives. The fact that use of the drug is severely restricted by the FDA because it’s been associated with liver damage, is not mentioned in the press release. Nor the fact that European regulators don’t allow for the drug to be sold on the European market.

[GNN’s Liam Sheff reported on a similar experiment gone bad: Exclusive: The Truth about Nevirapine

“Sam Urquhart”: contributed to this report


Posted by JanBegine

Disclaimer: Statements and opinions expressed in articles published on this site are those of the authors and not of the staff or editors of GNN, unless otherwise stated.


Great work Jan. Thanks so much.

anthony @ 05/10/06 05:43:08

this is great, amazing contribution. thanks

silverback @ 05/10/06 09:08:12

South Africa alone currently bears about 10% of the global burden of HIV infection. Over 6 million people carry the disease. Still, only 2% of the news in SA focuses on HIV/AIDS. Of course the media is not the only one in SA who’s in a state of denial. Not to long ago, former deputy president Jacob Zuma said that he minimised the risk of contracting the AIDS virus during unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman, by taking a shower afterwards.”

Oh, come on. Maybe South African media doesn’t focus on HIV/AIDS because there’s no such thing. Maybe the people are tired of being guinea pigs. Maybe they’re overwhelmed with poverty, and don’t have the time to be concerned with the West’s sex-fascination.

Maybe they’re getting tired of being told that their sex causes death, while Europe and the US seem to be immune.

Or maybe they read this 2006 John’s Hopkins study, and are beginning to doubt the veracity of the numbers (as reported in Harpers ):

An independent study of AIDS in Africa, funded by an international consortium and performed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, found that 3 percent of Rwandans age 15 to 49 are infected with HIV, a much lower figure than the 30 percent estimated by some researchers or the 13 percent estimated by the United Nations.”

So they’re either 1000 percent wrong, or… what? Maybe a little right?

The study goes on to say that rates are still considered correct for Southern Africa. Home of terrificly powerful AIDS drug lobbies.

Infection rates, the study found, were similarly overstated throughout East and West Africa, although in southern Africa the rate of infection remained extremely high: for example, 34.9 percent of Botswanans in the 15 to 49 age group are infected with HIV. “From a research point of view,” a British economist said of UNAIDS, “they’ve done a pathetic job.”

linked here

So what’s to be believed?

Let me throw in a couple other ideas:

How do we explain African AIDS?

  • Int. Journal of STD and AIDS, October 2002:

“Studies of sexual behaviour do not show as much partner change in Africa as modellers have assumed, nor do they show differences in heterosexual behaviour between Africa and Europe that could explain major differences in epidemic growth.”

The study’s title gives even more to it:

HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa not explained by sexual or vertical [mother-to-child] transmission.” (_Int. Journal of STD and AIDS. 2002 Oct;13(10_))

  • From 2003:

“Levels of sexual activity reported in a dozen general population surveys in Africa are comparable to those reported elsewhere, especially in North America and Europe.”

The title: “Mounting anomalies in the epidemiology of HIV in Africa: cry the beloved paradigm.” (_Int J STD AIDS. 2003;14_)

Q: but how could they print such a thing?

A: By observing, and letting go of one plank of the received wisdom.

“The mounting toll of HIV infection in Africa is paralleled by a mounting number of anomalies in the many studies seeking to account for it….

We propose that existing data can no longer be reconciled with the received wisdom about the exceptional role of sex in the African AIDS epidemic…”

“There is substantial dissonance between much of the epidemiologic evidence and the current orthodoxy that nearly all of the HIV burden in sub-Saharan Africa can be accounted for by heterosexual transmission and the sexual behaviour of Africans. (_Int J STD AIDS. 2003;14_)

No difference between African and European or American sex – So why have we been told that Africa is dying of a sex-plague? From the 2003 international journal of STD and AIDS:

It has been said that people often see what they wish to see. Papers published around 1988 reveal a number of considerations that might have encouraged a mindset prepared to see heterosexual transmission as the driving force in Africa’s HIV epidemic.

First, it was in the interests of AIDS researchers in developed countries – where HIV seemed stubbornly confined to MSMs [Men who have sex with men], IDUs [intravenous drug users], and their partners – to present AIDS in Africa as a heterosexual epidemic;

Second, there may have been an inclination to emphasize sexual transmission as an argument for condom promotion, coinciding with pre-existing programmes and efforts to curb Africa’s rapid population growth.

Third, ‘the role of sexual promiscuity in the spread of AIDs in Africa appears to have evolved in part out of prior assumptions about the sexuality of Africans’, (as Packard and Epstein document in a regrettably ignored 1991 article.)

In short, tangential, opportunistic, and irrational considerations may have contributed to ignoring and misinterpreting epidemiologic evidence.”

(_Gisselquist D et al. Let it be sexual: how health care transmission of AIDS in Africa was ignored. Int J STD AIDS. 2003;14:148-161._)

I posted some of these comments at a recent Seed magazine debate on Sex and AIDS

Please have a look, if you’re interested in the topic.

Or at the British Medical Journal debate on Sex and AIDS

We’ve got to stop pretending that shining a light on the fallacies in the dogma is equal to ‘denial’. It’s the opposite. Not talking about it is denial.

Okay – soapbox is yours.

Good travels.

Liam @ 05/10/06 09:21:46

So… you’re saying the numbers of HIV/AIDS prevalence are beefed up by scientists as an excuse to acquire more funding and by drug companies to sell more drugs?

Or what?

Interesting hypotheses.

PM me with what you got.

For those who are interested, the numbers I quoted are from prof Dingie Van Rensburg and dr. Christo Heunis, both of the Centre for Health Systems Research & Development at the university of the Free State in South Africa

BurningMonk @ 05/10/06 13:35:43

I sent you a nice email, with some material.

Numbers? The numbers are numbers. Projections, estimates. You can see them contested to the point of ridicule in the report cited above.

The question is – what does Sex have to do with AIDS?

Please see the above quotes from 2003 papers published in the Int. J. of STD and AIDS, and please open the British Medical Journal and Seed blog debate links for an exploration of the issues in technicolor.



Liam @ 05/10/06 14:27:44

Liam, could you also email me with the info. thanks.

themightyowl @ 05/12/06 15:40:26

I was climbing in Kenya a couple of years ago, our local tour guide told us that if you go to the clinic with flu symptoms the doctor will diagnose you with HIV to have access to more AIDS money for his clinic.

redial @ 05/13/06 05:41:29

owl, if he doesn’t PM me and I’ll forward it to you

redail, that’s crazy!

BurningMonk @ 05/13/06 06:07:37

Well, it may be crazy, as in ‘insane’, but that’s the way it goes.

I interviewed an American epidemiolgist/specialist in water safety. She showed me a book’s worth of photos she’d taken in Kampala and neighboring areas. The shantytowns built right directly on drainage canals, stuffed with garbage and detritus….where children were playing.

I asked her how she differentiated african AIDS from local, endemic illness.

“That’s a problem,” she said. “No, THE problem.”

I asked what she was doing about the water situation – who was helping her develop clean-water projects.

“Well”, she said, pausing, fidgeting a little, “You know….you really can’t get funding for anything in Africa, unless it has the name HIV/AIDS in the title.”

I’ve heard the same story from African nationals. One was a woman running a shop in Seattle sending money home to ‘aids’ orphans.

I had been speaking to her about my research, essentially saying that my view was that AIDS had been branded onto endemic African illness and poverty.

She looked at me a little wildly for a second – this was her business, after all. Then she said, like she was hoping no one else was listening, “It is strange how AIDS now appears in the poorest regions, the hungriest regions, where people used to be die of hunger and disease”.

She went on to tell me how the head of governments in “aids regions” like to promote their aids numbers to international relief organizations because it gets them money. She talked about these guys driving through town in their new Mercedes Benz’s, how they sell the received goods to the highest bidder, while the people go hungry, and do not receive the care packages (medical supplies, money) that were sent to them.

That woman is still running her gift shop in Seattle, sending money home to the orphans of whatever war or plague is affecting those people. But ‘aids’ to me is a brand name, and has nothing to do with what’s actually affecting those people.

There is what happened in a sub-set of the gay community here in the early 80s, that was seized upon by drug companies who poured poisonous drugs back into the gay community, who took the death-sentence too obligingly.

Then there’s Africa. And all the things that have ever affected Africa. And the twain do not meet, except in people’s minds.

Again – the BMJ Sex and AIDS debate is a place to see the arguments made by two opposing groups of AIDS researchers.

Liam @ 05/13/06 10:25:54


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