The top 30 countries in the world by numbers of people living with HIV and Aids (PLHA) account for 86% of all PLHAs. Those living in countries formerly colonised by European powers account for 74% of all PLHAs. Two countries that were colonized by the British, Swaziland and Lesotho, but do not fall in the top 30 by number of PLHA, are numbers one and three in terms of prevalence.
Those living in former colonies with a 70% or higher Christian population account for a bit less than half of all HIV positive people, although that excludes several countries with a substantial Christian population and a large number of PLHAs, such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
Breaking the figures down a bit further, about 60% of all PLHAs live in a country formerly colonized by the British. I include the US in this figure for reasons I shall mention below. 50% of PLHAs live in a country with a 70% or higher Christian population and 40% live in a country which has a 70% or higher Christian population, and was also colonized by the British.
In African countries, 75% of PLHAs live in countries formerly colonized by the British and 60% live in countries with a 70% or higher Christian population (and that rises to 68% if you add in the Christian populations from Nigeria and Tanzania). So in Africa 55% of PLHAs live in predominantly Christian countries that were colonized by the British (rising to 64% if you include the Nigeria and Tanzaian proportion).
The Don’t Get Stuck With HIV website and blog is about HIV transmission resulting from unsafe healthcare, cosmetic and traditional practices, as opposed to the pure sex theory that the HIV industry relies on. So, could there be something about the history of being colonized that would explain why HIV has infected many people in some places and few in others?
I don’t think the fact that many PLHAs live in predominantly Christian countries provides an answer. I think Christianity can be a marker of former colonization and colonial incursions. Some people suggest that Christian attitudes towards sexual behavior differ from those held by Muslims and adherents of other belief systems, but I’ll have to consider this on another occasion.
But colonial powers, for whatever motives, and by whatever means, controlled the lives of as many of the people as possible in the countries they claimed as their property. They controlled movement of people, labor, the economy, the environment, the ecology, family life, agriculture, food supply and nutrition, belief systems, education, social intercourse and just about everything else.
Most importantly, they brought ‘modern medicine’ to the colonies. Jacques Pepin, although he distances himself from the view that a significant proportion of HIV transmission has been a result of unsafe healthcare for the last thirty years, has written extensively about how unsafe healthcare was certainly responsible for most HIV transmission in the sixty years before that.
Pepin was also looking at French and Belgian colonial healthcare. Yet is it in former British colonies that HIV has reached the highest prevalence rates, with a few exceptions. The top seven countries by prevalence are former British colonies (Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia), as are numbers 9 to 12. Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, is number 8.
But this is not just about British colonialism, no more than it is about Christianity, or any particular brand of Christianity. Many of the countries the British claimed had been claimed by others before that. South Africa by the Dutch, Tanzania and Namibia by the Germans, etc. Also, Christianity was probably also spread by non-colonial influences.
This is not to reject modern medicine, far from it, but to emphasize the point that unsafe medicine spreads viruses such as HIV and hepatitis far more efficiently than any other means yet identified. They are bloodborne viruses, so skin piercing procedures carry the highest risk. This has been made clear by enough research to merit thorough investigation of the role of unsafe healthcare in high HIV prevalence countries.
UNAIDS insisting that HIV is almost always spread by unsafe sex in African countries, and not by unsafe healthcare, is an act of institutional barebacking. It leaves people in high HIV prevalence countries exposed to non-sexually transmitted HIV and, at the same time, stigmatizes them for being promiscuous, careless and stupid. Far from reversing the damage former colonial powers did, these institutions merely adopt the same position and go through the same processes all over again.
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