HIV and the settlers – the one thing Thabo Mbeki might have been right about

This one is going to be hot so I need to clarify a few tings before I start.

  1. I believe that HIV infection will undeniably progress to AIDS in all but a very small population of people who do not have the relevant CD4 membrane receptor for the virus to attach on.  These people may still spread the virus but apparently will not develop AIDS
  2. I advocate for all South Africans to screen themselves for HIV on a regular basis and if positive to monitor their CD4 counts.  As per our national protocols I advocate for anybody with a CD4 of less than 500 to go onto anti-retroviral medication.
  3. I understand that, outside of blood transfusion, needle stick injuries, unnatural amounts of body fluids on open wounds and mother to child transmission, the only way of contracting HIV is through sexual contact.

However there is another couple of facts about HIV that need to be reviewed before I can get to the ‘juicy’ stuff

  1. The World Health Organization bought into the idea that there is compelling evidence that HIV transfer is considerably less from women to circumcised men than uncircumcised men.
  2. Although it is true that the amount of sexual accounts outside of stable relationships in South Africa is unprecedented.  The SABC reported that, in 2014, 20 000 of our learners fell pregnant and that 223 of that number came from primary schools.  The question however is not, how many people are having casual sex, the question is rather:  can we correlate the extreme ‘promiscuity’ with our numbers of HIV.  What about countries where prostitution is legalized like Holland and Eastern Asia where westerners go for ‘the experience’.  I won’t say anything about human trafficking in East Asia as I don’t have numbers but suffice to say that, as bad as things are over here, I do think casual sexual encounters are extremely ‘prevalent’ in those countries.  Yet HIV is almost exclusively a sub-Saharan problem.
  3. In researching the effect of vitamin d on various diseases I found a massively interesting article on a study done in Tanzania.  The web-site is vitamindcouncil.org I refer to them for most of my vitamin d information.  The article can be read here and it confirms an association between HIV disease progression and vitamin D status.  The article speculates on whether Vitamin D may play a more active role in prevention but nothing is confirmed.
  4. One of the most sensible articles I have been exposed to from an HIV denier (an HIV denier is somebody who denies that HIV infection alone is sufficient to cause disease progression to AIDS) is from Dr. Bathmanghelidj and can be read here.  Dr. B has three articles on HIV on his web site watercure.com.  As much as you may hate HIV dissidents one thing that cannot be denied is that, at least in the early stages, a significant number of the HIV deniers were highly sophisticated scientists.  These people were driven into a corner and publicly discredited (which is a damn shame because their papers are ‘real scientific papers’ about honest speculations – I have read some of these papers and at least the preliminary conclusions make sense to me) following the success of ARV’s but I personally have a feeling if less politics were involved a lot of these scientists would have assisted us in finding a cure much quicker than we are.

So enter our former president Thabo Mbeki.

The man was really into ‘black consciousness’ and ‘African renaissance’ and all that.  However he introduced a very nasty ‘seed’ that Madiba worked hard to get out of our systems.  During Madiba’s reign I distinctly remember that no emphasis was placed on ethnicity at all.  Every label possibly distinguishing black from white etc.  were removed.

However after a short while into the ‘new president’s’ appointed term I remember having an emotional reaction when I had to fill in an x-ray form and it had the names:  black, white, indian and coloured  on it.  I can’t remember the exact details so I could be totally wrong about this but I do remember that Mr. Mbeki subtly moved us towards distinguishing again that we were, in fact, not the rainbow nation that Madiba and regime insisted we were.

Seemingly Mr. Mbeki had a vision for black people.  If time allows please read Mbeki’s african renaissance speech in 1998, the very beginning of his term.  Look we can say what we want but this is a good speech.  He apparently wanted black people to ‘rise out of the ashes’ and throw off the stereotypes that he perceived were hanging around them at the time (in a way I actually agree that those stereotypes were present in the minds of a lot of people but I would argue that he failed to realize that the stereotypes were racist and not worth his time and effort).  In his view rather than denying that black people were different from white people and claiming a ‘rainbow nation’ they were to rather embrace the whole idea of being black (and different) and push it to even greater accomplishments.  I have an idea he wanted to establish black people independently of everyone else.  Nothing wrong with the idea in essence but his timing was flippin’ terrible.  At that time most of us were still hurting from the realization of what ‘really went down’ and the truth and reconciliation commission utterly failed to breech the gaps that existed at the time (in my view the truth and reconciliation commission would have worked if they simply waited a few years.  I understand that there was a ‘need’ for amnesty for the so called ‘war criminals’ but I believe that matter could have been handled more effectively on a separate basis).  So all he eventually succeeded in doing was opening up the gap between black and white a little wider.  And this in a time where crime was beginning to sky rocket and while white people are nowadays just as much in the news as their black counterparts at the time false stereotypes were abounding.  Something we really did not need back then.

And then the Aids controversy.

I don’t think he ever realizes how much he, by himself, has weakened the case of the HIV dissidents / deniers.  At the time there was a documentary “House of numbers” that really fueled the controversy and spiked it way out of proportion.  The documentary, I believe, has been uploaded onto Youtube.  I did not watch the full documentary.  I only watched ‘behind the scenes trailers’ and read a lot of the comments and controversies surrounding the documentary.  Being me I thrive on controversies so naturally that was where you would find me during those days :-).  House of numbers essentially claimed that the HIV question was far from settled but that the HIV theory was mostly driven by pharmaceutical companies.

The politics of the whole thing were most unfortunate because people like Mr. Mbeki latched onto it.  I have tried to understand his motivations for saying the things he said.  He was obviously not stupid but he said things that were so obviously devoid of truth and afterwards he acted like he never said it.  For a smart man to act that dumb he had to be extremely passionate about not seeing what was in front of him.  Consider this quote:

(Start quote)

Interestingly, in a recent article Professor Willie Esterhuyse of Stellenbosch University discussed issues about perceptions of Africa that are related to the matters raised by the two Members of Parliament.

He quoted one writer as having written that, “Africa has been effectively demonised in a post-colonial discourse of perpetual catastrophe and unnatural disasters”. Another, referring to the way the West discussed the issue of the incidence of AIDS in Africa, said: “we are witnessing a fundamental reorganisation of Western racism, as the constitutive colonial analogy between race and class is dissolved, and African blackness is re-conceptualised as an analogue of the sexually perverse.”

With regard to the latter, Professor Esterhuyse quoted “a respected academic” whose comments were published in ‘Rapport’ on 27 January 2001. The academic had written: “Because (Mbeki) refuses to confirm the white perception that blacks are promiscuous, he fails to give critically important leadership on the Aids epidemic.”

This “respected academic” wanted us to accept the age-old white stereotype that we as Africans are sexually depraved, which he/she described as “the white perception”. The leadership we would then provide would be to act as the loud black propagandist communicating this “white perception” to the black majority.

According to this “respected academic”, the task of leadership in this instance would be to confirm the gratuitous insult directed against Africans, which has been part of the armoury of white racism for at least the last 300 years, that as the academic said, “blacks are promiscuous”.

All these examples relate to the phenomenon described by one of the authors quoted by Professor Esterhuyse who wrote that “Africa has been effectively demonised in a post-colonial discourse of perpetual catastrophe and unnatural disasters”.

(end quote)

I found the above from the Nelson Mandela foundation website at this link.  It is from a letter written by Mr. Mbeki in which he goes off on a report written by Professor Esterhuyse.  Seemingly Mr. Mbeki was deeply troubled by the stereotypes that he perceived as “blacks are promiscuous”.  He was deeply committed to eradicating this mind set and ‘showing the world how wrong they are’.

So why am I writing this?

Because ironically I find myself believing – with or without him that the prevalence of HIV among black South Africans has only somewhat to do with promiscuity.  Make no mistake – promiscuity is a problem in this country.  For a deeper ‘insight’ into some of the ‘politics’ that drive our young towards behaving the way they do I encourage people to visit the site:  diaryofazulugirl.co.za.  One of the ‘blogs’ there is ‘confessions of a sugar baby’.  One of my black, female colleagues told me that the stories written there are all too true even though the work is considered to be fiction.  Sure promiscuity is an issue but what we have to constantly ask ourselves:  Is the promiscuity that we see in sub-Saharan Africa enough to account for the massive discrepancy that we see in our HIV numbers?

Of course to a lot of conservative people this is a no-brainer.  No sex, no HIV they reason.  It is simply ‘God’s punishment on a promiscuous life’.

Sure – whatever, but my problem is “why is God only punishing sub-Saharan black people?” (naturally I don’t think it’s God but you get the point).

Enter vitamin D once again.

I believe that vitamin D is hell’s best kept secret.

You see.  If we take any plant and we put it out in the sun.  But we don’t give it water – it will die of course.  However nobody would go as far as saying that the sun is bad for a plant.  Everybody knows that the chlorophyll inside the plant converts CO2 into glucose and Oxygen with the help of sun light.  The solution is not to remove the plant from the sun but to give the plant more water while keeping it in the sun,

Turns out the same might be true for our skin and vitamin D.  Vitamin D apparently is so important to our bodies that every single layer of skin is able to synthesize vitamin D from cholesterol and

guess…

wait for it…

Sunlight!!!

Problem is a couple of years ago scientists discovered that there is a link between sun exposure, sun burn and skin cancer. Subsequently everybody was told to “get the hell out of the sun”.  All fine but what happened is that we neglected the most vital component in vitamin D synthesis.  And vitamin D is important.  Boy is it important!  Vitamin D does everything from boosting the immune system to keeping the healthy integrity of blood vessels to ensuring bony and mineral health to reducing inflammation.  The list goes on and on and on.

And apparently Vitamin D plays a role in the disease progression of HIV.  And Yes almost all HIV infected people just ‘happen to be’ significantly deficient in vitamin D.  It’s just that at the moment there is not enough evidence to tell everybody to “get the hell back in the sun”.  We do not really know what the ‘water’ is that our skin needs and since everybody acknowledges that there is a hole in the ozone we seem to be between a rock and a hard place for the moment.

This is where I actually think Thabo Mbeki was right.

I don’t think the supposed level of promiscuity in South Africa is enough to account for our infection rates – I know that’s not what he said but bare with me.

I suspect that the level of promiscuity in countries where prostitution is legalized comes close to rivaling our own and yet they do not share our numbers – and no I do not think HIV is punishment from God.

I think the fact that Vitamin D is observed to play a role in disease progression coupled with the fact that cysteine is also observed to be deficient in HIV individuals should play a much more important role in looking for a cure.  Of course I won’t call this “eating more beetroot and garlic”.

Black people have been ‘misled’ by the ‘settlers’ into thinking that the African sun is bad for them.  Turns out that the black skin is ‘perfectly adapted to the African sun’ and needs a lot of it to make enough vitamin D.  I suspect that the same is true for the white skin and the ‘European’ sun.

The difference between me and Mr. Mbeki is that I:

Don’t think people should be denied access to health care / ARV’s while we see if ‘onions, beetroot and garlic’ really works

I refuse to go back to Europe.  I do not consider Europe to be my home after all.  But you don’t see me lashing out on the ‘English speaking South Africans’ because their ancestors colonized ‘my home’ just two or three generations ago.  Let’s stop this bullshit and agree with Nandos that the Koi people were here first :-).

And please all people of all nations – no matter what color you are

Please go and check your vitamin D levels at your nearest doctor 🙂

And get back into the sun but don’t tell anybody I said so…

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