Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jonny Steinberg.

I attended the Jonny Steinberg lecture today. He attended Oxford University with Professor Nabar and they played cricket together. My kids are going to learn how to play cricket.
Jonny proved to be a very engaging, articulate speaker. I was not disappointed. I am excited to read his book, Sizwe's Test.

In lecture, Jonny talked about the struggle that such organizations as Doctors Without Borders face when attempting to distribute anti-retrovirals to people in South Africa. There is such a stigma attached to lining up for drugs distributed by white people, that more often than not, those who are HIV positive choose to die in shame rather than take ARVs. Then, of course, there is the problem of getting people tested to begin with. There are programs that provide incentives for people to get tested, but Jonny said that it would be difficult to find an incentive great enough to motivate people to take ARVs for the rest of their lives. You would think that a longer lifespan would be incentive enough, no?

Jonny told us some beliefs that people had about HIV and ARVs in South Africa:
1) You get HIV if a demon comes and has sex with you in your nightmare. [if infection is random, people's discount rates become extremely hyperbolic]
2) Sex causes HIV. [sigh, one course in economics would teach them that correlation is not causation]
3) HIV is something that you can feel in your blood.
4) ARV pills distributed by white people are meant to harm you. For example, one type of ARV pill makes you have children without limbs.
5) There is a white doctor who is going around to different villages to spread HIV to the black population.
6) Traditional herbal medicine is a good alternative to ARVs.

I read this in the New Yorker last year and it made me so sad. There are random people claiming that they have developed a cure for AIDS. One man claimed that his dead grandfather came to him in a dream and told him how to make it. Now he makes tons of money off of people who are withering away...

NPR talked about a gel that helps women protect themselves against HIV, but the results of the conducted test were statistically insignificant. Furthermore, women may be reluctant to use it b/c it comes with a plastic applicator which, if found by a husband or other villagers, could put the woman in danger of being physically abused, accused of being unfaithful, etc.

Lesson: We are lucky. Condoms are free at school. Use them.

[my professor and Jonny Steinberg]

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