19/05/08

If you’ve got it, flaunt it department: Elizabeth’s mafia connections

    It’s been a busy day on the airwaves. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I managed to hit BBC World TV’s HardTalk interview and be on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week, both in one day.

    On HardTalk, Stephen Sackur spent a lot of time quizzing me about my mafia connections. Comments have ranged from “hard questions for a hard-nosed chick” to “what’s with all the make-up?”
    You can watch the interivew here (23 minutes)

    Start the Week on BBC Radio 4 was an altogether gentler and more convivial affair. I talked a tiny bit dirty to Andrew Marr, but was fascinated, too, by other guests on the subject of brains, east-west conflict and iconic love stories.
    Download mp3
    Stream it (current for week of 5/19 to 5/25)

  • We’ve made a page to gather all the reviews, press and media reports on The Wisdom of Whores. It’s at: What they’re saying: Reviews and press. You can go there for a comprehensive list of links to reviews, interviews and more. If you see any reviews or mentions elsewhere, good or bad we’d like to hear about them…
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This post was published on 19/05/08 in Pisani's picks, Uncategorized, Videos.

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  1. Comment by Dag Brück, 20/05/08, 07:46:

    I must say Sakkur gave you a hard time, also compared to other interviews on Hardtalk. I cannot help thinking that in a context like this you’d be better off with a change of sex, an extra 50 lbs, and less hair.

    The interview clearly shows how differently you can read a text; your field work was not up for discussion, and there was little about prevention. Is the potential conflict with the “maffia” or African governments (there’s a distinction for you) really so central?

    But overall the publicity has been extraordinary, the concept works!

  2. Comment by Andrew, 20/05/08, 02:01:

    I have not read your book, but as the head of a not-for-profit in rural Swaziland, your comments and perceptions were very refreshing. We have to take pc out of the debate. This issue is real and pepole are suffering. It is, however, so much more than a disease. It is a moral and social catastrophy. My only disagreement: The promotion of condom use has not and will not work. There has to be a change in behaviour.

  3. Comment by Tope Akinwande, 20/05/08, 04:07:

    Elizabeth,

    I watched your interview on “HardTalk” and felt you had brought some controversial issue to the table. As somebody who enjoys “intelligent chin-wags”, I doof my hat for you.
    Where I think you blew it is when you said that Africans have a sexual pattern that predisposes them to HIV. I think if that’s not racism, it’s the usual stereotyping.

    It’s more depressing when you confessed that you didn’t know Africa very well!!!

    As a young African who has spent his 37 years on earth equally in Africa and Europe (schooling in France and the UK), I can say that sexual behaviour in the West is not better.

    Please keep that twisted stereotypical argument out of your brilliant arguments.

  4. Comment by paul canning, 22/05/08, 12:58:

    Hats off to you and your work Elizabeth. Enjoyed you with Andrew Marr but Sakkur’s unfortunately one of the male dicks employed by the Beeb.

    I love your work. As a gay man driven out of aids work by grief as well as the PC I say god speed to you.

    I recall having a nightmare time trying to get HIV- promoted as a status and being physically attacked for this whilst doing community-based prevention. I was pleased to see the Victorian Aids Council coming around to this finally but ten years late for me.

  5. Pingback by Jakarta (berita baru, “the mad doctor”, and wisdom) « JAKARTA -INDONESIA- URBANBLOG, 25/05/08, 12:38:

    […] international AIDS prevention”. This book is about how we need a new paradigm.  Her web site The Wisdom of Whores is also worth looking at. Posted in […]

  6. Comment by Magnus L., 09/09/09, 01:38:

    I saw that talk when it aired on BBC World, and it stuck vividly in my mind. It’s very provocative, but not all of it in a good way. In response to Sackur, whom I don’t think was unduly harsh – it’s always a tough show – you took the argument rather deep into a corner where lurked a lot of presuppositions about people with HIV. They get it because they have been doing mortally stupid things at the wrong time and place (do we choose where we like to beb born? does a kenyan or Congolese woman have a choice where to go or a lot of options of work?); Africans are promiscuous and that’s why the disease has spread like wildfire down there. Illiterate African and Asian prostitutes and housewives have a good background knowledge of how the disease affects them and the kind of time-span involved, even before it breaks out (if it does: not all HIV positives develop the illness, it’s basically Russian rouleltte).

    When I picked up more about your book, I could see you were severely critical of the way the US under Bush has focused on “chastity and monogamy” in fighting AIDS and tried to elbow out any agency that distributed condoms. In the interview, not a word about that side of the issue even though there were plenty of opportunities to bring it in and I think Sackur would have had no trouble with you opening up that angle; he probably would have appreciated it.

    But you seemed to hold back on that in order to achieve maximum blast at the charity and medical communities and the way they had sized up the aids epidemic threat. Effectively, the interview says that “yeah, Aids IS a junkies-gays-and-prostitutes plague” except in sub-Saharan Africa. You may be broadly right on the demographics but the interview seems to trivialize the pandemic. Even if I don’t doubt that you care about escorts, transsexuals and drug addicts (you’re a lot less fond of the US gay community, right?) it comes out rough and rather scornful because nothing is said about the uncontrollable aspect of living with a disease of this kind, the sword-of-Damocles side of having a lethal illness that can’t be cured and which affects your standing in every way. That side is what some of the doctors and activists of the “aids mafia” like to invoke of course. You seem to choose not to dwell on it, maybe because it is an ill where it may seem very hard to pin the blame on anyone, people or structures. But by not facing that side of the disease and talking about it as if it was just pneumonia and due to people’s individual lifestyle choices, your view comes out as pretty disparaging to the victims.

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