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Africa And Aids

April 05, 1992

Scott Kraft's article ("Africa's Death Sentence," March 1) on AIDS in Zimbabwe deals with two different subjects that he unfortunately intertwines.

The topic of women being forced into subservience to men is valid but should be a story unto itself. AIDS is caused by a virus, an infectious agent.

Kraft falls into a common trap when he describes women and children as innocent victims of AIDS and men as villainous carriers of the virus. He says intravenous drug use and homosexuality account for less than 1% of AIDS cases in Africa, and that "for most mothers and fathers, the child's diagnosis is the first time they learn their own fate."

So why are men to be blamed? Is Kraft twisting a horrible pandemic into something he considers political correctness? There are no "innocent" or "guilty" victims of AIDS, which must be fought with accurate information, medical research and treatment, not twisted accounts based on social, religious or moral beliefs and opinions.

PATRICK JAMES

Hollywood

The writer replies: AIDS and the lowly status of women in Africa are firmly linked by doctors, epidemiologists, sociologists and others battling this disease on the continent. The Western obsession with "innocent" and "villainous" AIDS victims (the letter writer's words, not mine) doesn't mean much in Africa. It would be irresponsible and arrogant to ignore the established links between the disease and the societal pressures that encourage its spread.

Fighting an incurable disease in Africa requires more than medical research and treatment. It calls for an understanding of the complexities of African society, even if that society is different from ours.

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