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05. Dezember 2007Men and AIDS: Problem and Solution

A column from Edit Schlaffer in the Austrian weekly newspaper Die Furche, Dec.5th 2007

The World AIDS day is over, the Red Ribbons have been put away until the next Life Ball, but over 33 million people worldwide live with the virus that absolutely could have been prevented from infection.

The ‘international community’ has been called upon to do something. The only question is, who is meant by this and what should actually be done? The epidemiologist Elisabeth Pisani has a clear answer: The ‘buy side’ in the sex industry is male and far exceeds the number of suppliers. The best prevention strategy is selective work with men.

Thailand is a success story that is structured around this concept. In 1990, a campaign was started not only asking men to use condoms, but which also applied pressure. Brothel owners appealed to their male clientele because the use of condoms resulted in fewer infected sex workers, fewer ‘buyers’ became sick, and the wives of the buyers also did not get infected. Between 1990 and 2007, according the official estimates, the campaign, prevented 5.3 million people from becoming newly infected. The interesting point is, in contradiction to mainstream campaigns that focus on thwarting women from having unprotected sex – a difficult undertaking in patriarchal relations – the new strategy is directly addressed to men.
And namely to the men with the most power in scene: brothel owners.
Journalists in Nigeria wear T-shirts with the inscription “Real Men Protect Women from AIDS.’

The Austrian Foundation for World Population is a local piece of the puzzle which encourages male awareness. And it is not a luxury, but rather a question of survival.


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