Tag: aids

Celebrities and their Causes: The Pitfalls of Celebrity Support

In the last few years celebrities have taken up residence in the world of humanitarianism. Traditionally, celebrities have held high-end dinner affairs or parties where they can do what they do best and give any ensuing funds to the needy of the world. But lately, they have taken the next step and have actually wanted to be photographed with the aforementioned needy. For most people, the visual juxtaposition of the grossly over privileged next to the appallingly deprived is jarring. Although there are moments of inspiration, more often than not, these photo-ops come across as feeble attempts to grab the spotlight.

It is not that celebrity causes are a bad thing. One need only to look to Oprah and Bono, the gold standard of celebrity humanitarianism, to see the capacity a celebrity has for positive change. The problem is that there is a real potential for serious harm. Most often damage is done when a celebrity speaks out of turn. When Bob Geldof responded to the G8’s promise of debt relief with “Mission accomplished” the whole issue lost its momentum. Scant attention was paid to the ensuing backpedaling of G8 countries and to the rigid conditions placed on the receiving countries.

In other situations, celebrities deign to speak from a position of knowledge and authority which are clearly absent. One case in particular springs to mind. One celebrity, who shall not be named, countered valid criticisms of her adoption process with the inane, “I’m saving a life” and that maybe other people should go out and save a life too. That same celebrity proceeded to justify her adoption process by saying that her actions have helped to set a precedent in a country where adoption laws are largely absent. The arrogance of this woman was astounding and the whole matter reeked of colonialism. The fact that she, who has limited education and experience in international affairs, , development issues, etc., honestly thinks that she should be shaping any country’s laws would be laughable if it were not so absurd. But somehow, she was deluded enough to think that being white and wealthy were sufficient credentials to ‘educate’ an African country on their adoption laws.

The fact is that people do listen to celebrities and because of this, celebrities and their pet projects can shape public perceptions and therefore, public priorities. Because there are so many contributing factors to the AIDS pandemic, issues which on the surface might appear to be unrelated can have a dire impact on efforts to curb the spread of AIDS. That is, campaigns or interventions which impact issues of social justice, poverty, human rights, family structures, and gender inequality will also impact the spread of AIDS.

Gender Violence Facilitates AIDS: Violence Against Women Needs to be Addressed

In Stephen Lewis’s talk (this talk will be cited ad nauseam in future articles, because, yes, it really was that good), he cited gender violence as a key issue that needs to be addressed in order to solve the problem of AIDS. On the surface, it would appear that gender violence plays a role by transmitting HIV directly, that is through forced intercourse. However, on further analysis, the relationship between HIV and gender violence is much more complex. The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and the World Health Organization have released a comprehensive bulletin outlining the role of gender violence and the spread of HIV.

Aside from direct transmission, gender violence facilitates the spread of AIDS, by essentially limiting a woman’s options and self-efficacy. Violence against women, more often than not, is carried out by men that are known to the women and are, in fact, usually the partners of the women. The threat of violence looming over a relationship can hinder a woman’s ability to negotiate with her partner. Women who are abused are less likely to be able to insist upon condom use as a condition of intercourse with their partners. Such a request is often answered with further violence.

Abused woman are less likely to be able to access HIV/AIDS resources including HIV testing. A request for money or permission to get tested can result in violence as it can be construed as a sign of infidelity on the part of the woman or as an insult to the man. A woman who is faithful to her husband/partner would not need testing and to imply that the man’s extramarital activities could have garnered him HIV is not usually well-received.

To add to the risk, men who are abusive towards their partners are also more likely to engage in sexual activities outside of the relationship and to be infected with sexually transmitted infections. Abusive partners tend to be older than the women. This age difference not only sets up a situation for inequity within the relationship, but also means that these older men are likely to have more sexual experience and therefore, would be at a greater risk of HIV infection.

Gender violence also has consequences for the way a woman views herself. A history of violence predisposes a woman to make riskier sexual choices. This is particularly true for younger woman. The earlier that a woman experiences sexual violence in her life, the earlier she will become sexually active.

The consequences of gender violence are complicated and impact many parts of a woman’s life. Because of its widespread effects, gender violence must be addressed if AIDS is to be curbed. However, there is no simple answer. Solutions need to address many spheres including gender equality, the economy, and education systems among others.

Charity Cycling Race for HIV/AIDS: Bike Riding – Land’s End to John O’Groats, in aid of South Africa

This isn’t a gentle pedal but a race against time. This six-day challenge is a race against time for the cyclists and a race against the spread of HIV/AIDS for many more people in South Africa.

The endurance road cycle race will take place from 22 – 27 June. Starting from Land’s End the cyclists will travel appromately 145 miles a day for the six-day endurance test.

The Race Against Time is not just the name of the cycle race but reflects the urgency of the situation in South Africa of HIV/AIDS. The need is enormous not only for those who are already affected by the virus but those who may be protected from it.

This year’s Race Against Time team is now complete with 16 cyclists signed up and training hard. The riders are from all over the UK with 6 of the team members coming from Edinburgh. This year two of the team are women; team details may be seen here.

Although the team is full for this year, they will be open for applications for the 2017 race in October. Anyone over 18 is eligible to apply, although the youngest team member so far was 34 and the oldest 70. The registration fee for the race was £250.

The endurance race raises funds for the Bishop Simeon Trust (BST) which funds HIV/AIDS, development and education projects in South Africa. The Trust works in partnership with South African communities and is making a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people.

Due to the sponsorship by Sporting Bet, online bookmakers, every single penny of the money raised through The Race Against Time goes to community HIV/AIDS projects, which are improving the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS – especially children.

The race organisers intend to raise at least £20,000 all for the worst affected HIV/AIDS victims in South Africa, particularly orphans and vulnerable children. It is thought that around a million children are now orphans due to the AIDS pandemic.

So far, almost 450,000 people have died from AIDS-related illnesses in South Africa, and 5.5 million people are thought to be infected, with this figure constantly increasing. In some areas up to 50% of the population are said to be infected and it’s estimated that 20% -25% of the entire adult population are infected.