South African Men Living With HIV/AIDS: Interview with Dr. Christopher Brooks
Editor’s Note: To read part one, click here.
According to the UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic, an estimated 5.6 million people are living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2009, more than any other country. In 2006 there were 607,184 reported deaths caused by HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Due to these startling statistics, professor of anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Christopher A. Brooks decided to research the South African AIDS epidemic and compile stories of South African men affected by the virus into a new book, entitled Through the Voices of Men: South African Men Speak About HIV.
In part one of this interview, Dr. Brooks and I discussed his last book entitled Dangerous Intimacy: Ten African American Men With HIV and the topic of AIDS in African American communities. In this portion of the interview, the focus was international. Specifically, I interviewed Dr. Brooks about the crucial importance of the issue of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and the differences between the spread of the virus at home versus abroad.
GayRVA.com Could you tell our readers about your new book and why you decided to write about South Africa?
Dr. Christopher Brooks Edwin Cameron, a Supreme Court Judge in South Africa read my last book, Dangerous Intimacy. He suggested that I write a similar book, except with a focus on South African men. In the new book, there is twice the number of interviews as in Dangerous Intimacy. The interviews represent the 11 different ethic groups found in South Africa: Zulu, Xhosa, Africans, Pedi, Tswana, Sotho, Asian, Muslim, etc. The Zulu men represent the largest portion of the book in order to reflect ethnic proportions in the country.
How does the South African experience of living with HIV/AIDS compare to the American experience?
They definitely know more about that virus there. They have to deal with it more often. There are about 45 million people in South Africa, and close to 1 in 4 are infected. Out of a population of 230,000 we have just over a million infected with the virus. The epicenter of the virus is the African continent. In comparison to the rest of the world, the need is dire in other nations.
Cultural issues often arise in the new book. There are many superstitions and local beliefs surrounding the issue of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Even if medical science came up with a cure, you will still have to deal with the social and cultural practices that aid the spread and contraction of the virus.
What are South African men doing to address the issue of HIV/AIDS in their communities?
Several of the men I interviewed during my time writing Through The Voices of Men were activists, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. Many joined organizations, such as South African Men’s Action Group (SAMAG), Treatment Action Campaign, AIDS Consortium, and The Mercy Foundation.
Through the Voices of Men: South African Men Speak About HIV will be available in the Spring of 2011. It will be published by Linus Publications.
Annie is journalist and activist living in Richmond, Virginia. Her journalism focuses on issues of gender, health and economic inequality. Check out her portfolio here: http://anniebrownportfolio.blogspot.com/ Also, Annie helps run a independent publication entitled, Lips Richmond: http://lipsrichmond.wordpress.com
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