Volume 93, Issue 53

Friday, December 3, 1999


CASA wish-list announced

City toys with budget surplus

Napster goes off-line for students

Hands-on learning in cyberspace

Preventative bacteria probed

Donation fuels AIDS education

Keep fit, have fun and warm down


Caught on campus

Buzz Mecca

Donation fuels AIDS education

By Stephanie Cesca
Gazette Staff

The federal government's move to donate $50 million to combat AIDS and HIV in Africa, has received applause and fueled discussion of the widespread epidemic.

Abebaw Assefa, program officer for the Christian Children's Fund of Canada, an international relief and development organization, said the announcement made Wednesday was evidence the international effort is aiding the crisis.

"It is a big step forward. Canada is taking a leading role. People die everyday, every week because of HIV," Assefa said of Africa. "Recently, because of the staggering affects of HIV on the African population, we [try] to focus on preventative measures."

However, Assefa said education is not always easy in many African countries. "It is a very sensitive and delicate issue to discuss," he said, explaining educators have to separate the men and women when teaching about sexually transmitted diseases because of cultural norms.

Furthermore, several misconceptions prevail throughout many areas, making it increasingly difficult to educate people, Assefa explained. "Most of the rural projects – that is a major problem. In most cases, their perception seems to be very different in terms of how you get it and how you prevent it."

To make matters even worse, many governments do not want to tackle the problem and take precautionary measures for fear of religious groups, Assefa said. "Denial is a crucial factor. Most of the governments are not bold enough to declare [HIV] a national problem. But countries who have been denying it are now paying for it."

Ted Hewitt, a sociology professor at Western, explained many religious leaders believe trying to educate a country on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases may be seen as promoting promiscuity.

Huron College international and comparative studies professor Arja Vainio-Mattila agreed and said several churches in Africa are strong opponents to education about sex.

Yet, Vainio-Mattila explained progress depends on the country. "There are some countries which have progressed in education within Africa," she said, mentioning Uganda and Zambia.

Vainio-Mattila said the problem is most widespread in the eastern and southern areas of the continent. Although several numbers have been estimated in the past as to the amount of people infected in Africa with either AIDS or HIV, Vainio-Mattila said there will never be a way of tallying up exact figures.

She added one can be sure African children are now heading their own households in some communities, because the older generations of their community have been totally decimated by AIDS.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999