Prudence in the city
Côte d’Ivoire tackles safer sex
photo's by REBECCA DODD
Glamorous Hanny Tchelly, well-known Ivorian film star and producer, wears a lurid pink T-shirt promoting condoms. She also has a heavy gold crucifix around her neck. Her apparel is a sign of the times: Côte d’Ivoire may be one of the most religiously conservative countries in Africa, but with an estimated ten per cent of the adult population infected with HIV, the need for frankness about sexual issues is now recognized by all sectors of society, including the church.
Hanny is the star attraction of a weekly radio show broadcast from one of the poorest ghettos of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s capital. Guests on the show include popular singers, comedians and TV personalities. Paramilitaries in fatigues hold back the 5,000-strong crowd which has gathered to watch the stars go through their routines.
Often the actors are from the popular weekly TV soap SIDA Dans La Cité (AIDS in the City) which Tchelly produces. ‘Just because it’s holiday season, these young men forget about everything. They don’t help around the house, they go out drinking and dancing. Before you know it, they’ve got some girl pregnant or got infected with HIV,’ laments one of the actresses. The crowd roars in agreement.
The programmes are part of a campaign by the US agency Population Services International (PSI) to persuade young Ivorians to use condoms. Though studies have shown that most know of AIDS and how HIV is transmitted, condom use among sexually active teenagers is woefully low.
But SIDA (as the soap is popularly known) and the radio show Alloco Drone have got people talking. They have helped normalize the discussion of sexual matters – usually taboo subjects – and present condom use as acceptable behaviour.
Produced on a shoestring budget with actors working for nominal fees, SIDA now rivals imported soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty in the ratings. In its very first episode (broadcast in March 1991), the ‘father’ in a middle-class Ivorian family discovered he was HIV-positive. From there the plot-line worked through many of the problems faced by HIV-positive people. How to tell his wife and children? What would his boss say if he found out? After much anguish the man confronts his family and his employer, who promptly sacks him. In the final episode of the most recent series his wife, who is pregnant, decides to take an HIV test. Her result will be revealed in the next series, to be broadcast soon.
PSI sells roughly 750,000 ‘Prudence’ condoms a month at a heavily subsidized price. For the sake of religious sensitivities, PSI’s condom campaign has three main messages: abstinence, fidelity and – as a last resort – condoms. ‘We give all these messages, but we know that most people reject the first two as irrelevant to themselves,’ says director Rob Eiger.
‘We market them as a needed product for today’s time, rather than a sexy fun thing to use. On the other hand, we don’t want people thinking death when they buy it – that’s why we use sports stars, comedians and other personalities to sell it,’ says Eiger. So far, it seems to be working – Prudence condoms have the same ‘brand recognition’ as Toyota.
Rebecca Dodd, Acting Editor of Aids Analysis Africa.
Nursing the vicious
The British Department of Health found after a comprehensive survey that racial abuse of black and Asian nurses by patients is commonplace. ‘In every case-study area looked at, and in nearly every speciality within these areas, ethnic minority nurses reported having been racially harassed by patients. Despite this they were expected not to ‘make a fuss’ and to get on with their jobs. They did not have the right to refuse racist patients. They were also discriminated against by their employers who were slow to promote them. They were concentrated in less popular specialities like mental illness, learning disability and care of the elderly. Black staff could expect to reach the nursing-sister grades as long as five years after white colleagues. The Department of Health is to run a series of workshops on good employment practice.
Source: The Guardian 1/11/95
ALEX KERSTITCH /
Seahorse populations worldwide are plummeting with some 20 million being caught a year. Three-quarters of these are consumed in traditional medicines by China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In Hong Kong large bleached seahorses sell for $1,200 per kilo, seven times more than the price of silver.
Their life-cycle makes them vulnerable. Male seahorses who, unusually, bear the burden of pregnancy, are more visible and easy prey for collectors. Strict monogamy means that their social structure gets disrupted and replacement mates are hard to find. Their habitat is restricted to coral, sea grass and mangrove. TRAFFIC, the group which monitors trade in endangered species, recommends setting up reserves and captive-breeding programmes rather than driving the trade underground.
New Scientist, Vol 148 No 2001.
Russian immigrants in a climate of fear
When the Israel Cancer Society published a report claiming that 30 per cent of the country’s cancer patients are newly-arrived Russian immigrants from the Chernobyl area it stirred up a whirlpool of controversy. The report stated that most of these immigrants had stomach or lung cancer,which are among the most expensive to treat – and that their cancer rate is seven times the national average.
The report coincided with the restructuring of the national health plan, Klalit, in order to rescue it from its multi-billion dollar debts. The press played up claims that Russian patients were in Israel just to milk the system and that many weren’t even Jews. Doctors meanwhile questioned the accuracy of the report.
All of this is sickening to the migrants concerned. Building engineer Alexander Kalintriski, who arrived in Israel in 1990 in order to live in a Jewish state, formed a lobbying group of 56 Chernobyl rescue workers. Since then, 17 of the group have died.
He too has become sick, but hides his illness for fear of losing his job – a common fate for Chernobyl survivors in Israel. Detection is imminent, however, since he can no longer lift more than six pounds in one hand and all but four of his teeth have fallen out. He plans to move back to Russia.
Caught between apathetic attitudes in Israel and the lack of any compensation from Russia and Ukraine, Israel’s Chernobyl survivors must earn a living and cope with a new language and culture, while not receiving any preventative health treatment.
The effect all this has on the new immigrants has been given the name ‘Chernobyl AIDS’. According to psychiatrist Miriam Katz: ‘The fear triggers many social problems including divorce, alcoholism and physical abuse, which lead directly to an inability to earn a good living, which triggers more social misbehaviour.’
Other symptoms of Chernobyl AIDS noted in recent studies include depression, nightmares, cold sweats and high blood pressure – all symptoms of mass hypochondria, according to some doctors. Dr Gadi Reinert, head of the research department of Carmel Hospital and a member of the Health Ministry policy team says: ‘They come to us with ailments that don’t exist. Often they claim their hair is falling out and we discover that their rate of baldness is perfectly normal. This is a population of losers blaming us for their problems.’
It’s attitudes like that which have made many survivors retreat into their own private hell, fearful of the day when the first symptoms show up. Crime is on the up among Russian youth. Russian activist Alexander Tenzer had these sobering words to say about the situation: ‘The Government’s attitude is nothing short of cruel and Israeli society is paying for it in crime, alienation and a palpable loss of human morality.’
Barry Chamish / Gemini
Price of independence
Costly newsprint undermines papers
You may have noticed it – costlier newspapers, smaller supplements, thinner, lighter paper. It’s the result of a 40-per-cent rise in world newsprint prices in 1995 and for 1996 the forecast is another 20-per-cent hike.
With even papers like The New York Times being forced to raise prices the fallout in the South is far worse. Independent papers are the first to feel the pinch. Take Zambia’s Post for example. It is Zambia’s sole independent voice and frequently takes the Government to task. All the other papers make a loss and are subsidized by the Government or the Church. Last March its readers found themselves paying 75 per cent more for their paper and circulation dropped from 28,000 to 21,000. The Post could consider buying newsprint from Europe or North America instead of South Africa as it does now, but this would require an enormous sum up front for a bulk purchase.
In richer Zimbabwe, dependence on foreign newsprint is less acute thanks to healthy domestic production, but prices have risen here as well, partly because of an increase in the cost of imported pulp. Zim Newspapers, the country’s largest group, is thinking of removing supplements. Some analytical titles survive largely thanks to foreign aid donors who also supply them with duty-free paper. Once stocks run out, they could face closure.
India’s papers, recognized as the voice of democracy by media-watchers, are also struggling. ‘Everyone’s complaining of high newsprint prices here,’ says Javed Faridi of the Delhi Union of Journalists. ‘One big buyer was negotiating a bulk order and asked for two days to think it over. Two days later, the price had almost doubled.’
In India, as in Britain, the cover prices of many leading papers have been cut in a circulation war, and in the capital, Delhi, more newspapers and supplements have hit the streets. The main groups will probably pull through but for vernacular independents it will be tough. ‘Newsprint is like gold-dust to us,’ says Anurag Chaturvedi of the Bombay-based Hindi daily Mahanagar, whose offices in the past have been attacked by right-wing Hindu groups. It is relying on its committed readership for its survival.
Some of the stronger newspaper groups are building their own paper mills. Although the raw materials are available, such polluting new ventures risk opposition from environmental groups.
Worldwide, imaginative solutions are being sought to tackle the newsprint crisis. In Indonesia, the Government is considering the use of bamboo and jute as raw materials for newsprint. Many Western countries are investing in recycling plants, but even here there is bad news – recovered waste is in short supply.
David Price and Shani Wasantharaja/Panos Features
Dishing out the dirt
The National Rivers Authority found 24,515 incidents of water pollution in Britain last year. Agriculture was responsible for 13 per cent of these and industry for a further 21 per cent. But, somewhat ironically, the largest polluters were the privatized water and sewage companies with 28 per cent of cases.
Greenline, No 128
Two Colombian entrepreneurs, Miguel Caballero and Juan Murphy, are turning out hardwearing fashion statements – the duo manufactures designer bullet-proof jackets. Sales last year were a healthy $66,000 and are expected to double this year thanks to exports, the biggest growth markets being Eastern Europe and Russia.
World Press Review, Vol 42 No 10
The World Health Organization estimates that three million children under five die each year as a result of diarrhoeal disease. Up to 70 per cent of the cases are caused by contaminated food. Infants being weaned from maternal milk to other foods are especially at risk. In many poor countries mothers prepare infant food in the morning for the entire day. By night-time it can be full of potentially harmful bacteria.
Recently Drs Martin Adams and Jane Morgan of the University of Surrey, England and Dr Rokiah Yusof of the University Pertanian, Malaysia have worked together to come up with a fermentation technique which prevents harmful bacteria from growing in cereal-based food. The team are now looking to deliver their technology to South-East Asian countries where it can be put to work on traditional dried rice-flour cakes.
University of Surrey news release
‘We don’t sit there every morning and say, ‘How can we ruin a country?’
World Bank President James Wolfensohn defending the organization’s record.
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996