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AIDS And The Liberation Struggle - 2002-04-26

Current estimates show that southern Africa is home to most of the world’s HIV/AIDS cases. Some analysts say the strong hold of the pandemic is due in part to the liberation struggles of the 1960’s and 70’s, which disrupted social order in the region. They say leaders in independent Africa should look at history for help in dealing with the disease.

One of the AIDS activists who believe that there is a link between Aids and the liberation struggle Issichilindi Siwale. Dr. Siwale, who runs a private clinic in lusaka, says Aids, like most diseases, thrives on instability in social conditions and attacks mostly the young. He says, “The people who were in the struggle were young and therefore sexually active. When they here they felt at home because they spoke the same language. The elderly were mainly in the leadership but the combatants were young.”

Dr. Siwale says the war of liberation disrupted the environment in which Africans could live as families and communities. He says, “What I want to say that liberation destabilized us. We were no longer communities. And when you are no longer communities then AIDS thrives. Our health infrastructre were also decimated because of the national liberation movements. You remember Ian Smith (former Rhodesian prime minister) came and bombed us. Our economies were decimated there ushering in poverty.”

The Zambian government allowed freedom fighters to live in the same residential areas with the local people.

Cleophas Phiri, a Lusaka resident recalls the lifestyle some of the freedom fighters led. He says, “I have no apologies to make. Most of them led careless lives. You can imagine they were being paid in US dollars. During their spare time, they drunk and womanized. Some of them left behind children.”

Given this kind of history, some AIDS activists say leaders in southern Africa will do well to address the political and economic conditions prevailing in the region if the war against the disease is to be won.