(Conclusion. In our post the source of AIDS was traced to the holocaust-like poverty heaped on Africans through colonialism, forced labor and slavery, creating starvation conditions which impelled these super-oppressed people to kill apes for food, apes which–it later turned out–carried the AIDS virus.)
Starting in the 1960’s, African societies changed from colonialism to rule by indigenous nationalist or fascist rulers allied with imperialism. For example, the Belgian Congo became Zaire. Patrice Lumumba was assassinated by the CIA. They installed Mobuto, a worthy successor to King Leopold in greed and bloodthirstiness. South Africa and Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) remained under fascist apartheid throughout this period. Armies of male migrant workers left the countryside for the newly-crowded cities, while their wives remained behind in remote rural areas. Prostitution became a major growth industry, some European companies even setting up whorehouses near their factories for their workers. A seemingly endless series of nationalist and inter-imperialist wars sent millions of soldiers and refugees all over central Africa.
Enslaved by the global market economy, conditions created by colonialism continued and worsened in “post-colonial” African societies. HIV spread like wildfire through populations ravaged by poverty, war, famine and disease. HIV spread to Europe and the U.S., and then to Haiti and Thailand, primarily through sex tourism, often child prostitution. Prostitution and dirty needles spread it to Latin America, India and Eastern Europe, centers of new epidemics. The IMF’s (International Monetary Fund) stranglehold on poor countries caused massive unemployment, promoted prostitution, imposed cutbacks in health care and education and made life-saving drugs unaffordable.
Sexism kills, just as surely as–and combined with–racism. In Africa, traditional oppression of women has meshed with new, profit-driven forms of oppression. In southern Africa, married women often don’t dare ask their husbands to wear condoms, and are pressured by relatives to stay unprotected for maximum fertility. Husbands are expected to have many sex partners while their wives are expected to be monogamous.
Some day the HIV pandemic will be known as one of imperialism’s worst crimes. Rulers in both Africa and the U.S. claim that the situation is hopeless, and that millions are doomed. Yet the money it would take to provide effective prevention and therapy now ($100 billion yearly) is only a small fraction of what imperialists spent on wars against Iraq and Vietnam. It is an even smaller fraction of the profits they’ve made from African rubber, diamonds, gold, copper, oil and slave labor. In a few countries (like Uganda and Thailand) even simple prevention campaigns have had a big impact. So building a larger movement now, that refuses to accept rules protecting the bosses’ profits, can save many more lives. Mass production and distribution of pirated anti-AIDS drugs, in collaboration with medical workers in Africa, can prevent transmission and provide treatment for millions.
A larger movement must also lead a sharp and prolonged struggle against sexism in order to transform relationships between men, women and children, ending prostitution and sex slavery. It must fight to end the super-exploitation of migrant labor. These goals can only be achieved through the revolutionary destruction of capitalism. The experience of once socialist China in eradicating prostitution, syphilis and drug addiction (which have all returned in now capitalist China) shows that revolutionary communism can, even in poor societies, solve massive public health problems.
Sources: Hahn, B.H. et al. (2000); Korber et al. (2000); Science 287: 607 Chitnis et al. (2000), AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses 16: 5-8; Gao et al. (1999) Nature 397: 436-441; Hooper, E.M. (1999) The River; Schoofs (2000) “The Agony of Africa” (at http://www.villagevoice.com/specials/africa) ScientificAmerican, January 2000; New York Times, 6/28/00 and 7/9/00. Recommended background: A. Hochschild King Leopold’s Ghost; W. Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; B. Davidson, “The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State”