12/07/08

Psycho alert (and a mea culpa)

If you live your life among people whose lives, jobs or natural curiousity open their minds to the world, it is easy to forget how rigid some people are in their views. Today, I was sent a shocking reminder of the vitriol that comes with a small mind; it made me understand why some of what I say upsets people.

Here’s some of what I say: Over three decades of fertility and sexual behaviour surveys have recorded distinct differences in patterns of sexual networking around the world. Broadly, men and women in parts of sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to have a small number of steady partners at any one time; in other regions, people often have a lot more partners over a life time, but usually just one at a time (sex in nets versus sex in strings, I call it). HIV spreads more efficiently through sex in nets, and that in large part explains why two thirds of people with HIV live in Africa.

Those are facts. Not opinion, certainly not an expression of any judgement about the inherent superiority of any behaviour or moral code. But some people have suggested that simply stating those facts plays into the hands of people who believe that sex is bad and more sex is worse, and who use that judgement to light bonfires of hatred upon which whole races get burned. One such person is ZSUZSANNA, of the Faithful World Baptist Church (Doctrinal statement: “We believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty”.)

“I would link to her blog to prove I am telling the truth, but I won’t because I thought the woman was inappropriate, vulgar, and a psycho.” says ZSUZSANNA of a stranger who had the audacity to conceive a child by in-vitro fertilisation. I feel exactly the same way about ZSUZSANNA, but I will link to her vitriolic blog, so that you can see I’m not making it up. Choice quote:

Maybe instead of handing out condoms like candy, these people should be taught not to live like animals and sleep with everyone and everything that moves. Statistics have proven over and over that distributing condoms RAISES the incidence of STDs. This is due to the fact that people will fornicate more because they feel safe…

Let’s leave aside this good Christian soul’s inability to interpret data (one she shares with a Bush-appointed former Secretary of Education, Bill Bennet.) How many of “these people” has she spoken to? Is she prepared to write off the millions of chuch-goers of Africa as “animals” just because of differences in the way sexual partnerships are structured?

In addressing HIV, I still believe it important to state the facts and address them appropriately. But if anything I say reinforces this kind of blind prejudice, I would be sincerely sorry.

I was alerted to this rant by Lazygal.

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This post was published on 12/07/08 in Ideology and HIV.

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  1. Comment by Roger, 12/07/08, 02:36:

    That’s the problem with the Internet. Anybody can write absolutely anything and it will be available for ever without never been challenged. It doesn’t matter if you, I or anybody else write about it, as those kind of writers rarely agree to open their posts/blog to discussion.

    Worst many people will just take the information at face value, because they “read it on the Internet” or in Wikipidedia. Unfortunately, Internet does not come with critical sense.

    Misinformation is not limited to the blogosphere. For example this news from Reuters wrongly reports that vaginal microbicides (a potential new way to protect women against HIV infection) can be absorbed into the body through the vaginal wall and then, like any other drug, could cause the AIDS virus to mutate . The last part is completely inaccurate, and despite writing to Reuters, it is still online.

    http://tinyurl.com/6yoyuk

    So please everybody, take everything you read with a pinch of salt, and that also applies to the writer of this comment! Nobody is perfect.

  2. Comment by David Hackney, 12/07/08, 04:25:

    The late Senator Patrick Moyhihan of New York once made the following comment: “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are NOT entitled to your own facts.” Every time I read a blog with “studies have shown” or “statistics show” with no citations my BS alarm goes off. Roger is correct. The Internet’s full potential for communication has not yet been realized because anyone can write anything and claim their opinion is supported by “statistics.” If ZSUZSANNA wants to see the real “monster” in this debate she should look in the mirror.

  3. Comment by Tracy Quan, 12/07/08, 05:50:

    Hi Elizabeth. Please say more about your Bill Bennet reference – I’m interested (and don’t remember much about Bennet)- thanks. Or, if you don’t feel like posting it here, wd love to hear from you.

  4. Comment by elizabeth, 15/07/08, 04:16:

    Bill Bennet, who now hosts a very popular talk show called Morning in America, was Secretary of Education under the first George Bush. He saw data that showed that condom use has climbed dramatically in countries with high HIV prevalence. From that, he concluded that condoms don’t work. As I say in The Wisdom, that’s like saying that we should get rid of hospitals. They are full of sick people, so obviously they don’t work…
    You can check out his reflections here.

  5. Comment by Tracy Quan, 21/08/08, 10:18:

    Thanks! I just saw this! Well, I find Bennet’s column nearly unreadable. Perhaps that is a blessing.

  6. Comment by Catherine, 09/01/09, 05:49:

    People like this are the reason why Christian kids are too scared to buy condoms, have sex and then sneak of to have abortions.

  7. Comment by Craig, 08/11/12, 04:09:

    A correction of “fact” from Wikipedia:William John “Bill” Bennett (born July 31, 1943) is an American conservative pundit, politician, and political theorist.

    He served as United States Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988. He also held the post of Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush. In 2000, he co-founded K12, a for-profit online education corporation which is publicly traded.

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