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HIV Is a Black Person’s Disease Only

HIV does not only affect black people, all races are at the biological level equally at risk of contracting HIV. Therefore it is not race or something inherent to a particular race that renders them more likely to contract HIV. It is the social, political and material circumstances which ultimately influence the spread of HIV.

Due to social, political and historical factors, South Africa is a country which is deeply divided both in terms of class and race. Historically white South Africans were privileged while black South Africans were the most disadvantaged group under the apartheid regime.

The legacy of apartheid continues into the present. Inequality is still a major feature of South African society. African people are more likely to occupy the poorest classes which leaves them exposed to conditions of poverty which, in turn, put them at greater risk of HIV infection. For example people of the poorer class might have little or no access to education on the transmission and prevention of HIV. Another point of difficulty might arise in accessing preventative measures and methods such as condoms.

At the international level African countries, which are populated largely by black or African people are more susceptible to political instability because of their history as territories conquered by Western and European powerhouses.

Past and present political instability spawns social, economic and cultural factors that affect the spread of HIV. For example in South Africa while political battles were being fought HIV was spreading unnoticed and unchecked while American and European governments were quick to respond to it. When the threat was acknowledged in post-apartheid South Africa it had already grown out of control and the denialism which characterised Mbeki’s time as president further arrested prevention and treatment efforts.

Sources and Further Reading

Aids.about.com, HIV/AIDS in Africa van der Berg, S.Current poverty and income distribution in the context of South African history Poku, N.K. Poverty, Debt and Africa's HIV/AIDS Crisis

South African National HIV Prevalence Incidence Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008 – A Turning Tide Among Teenagers