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Kazakhstan HIV
July 23, 2006 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Fourteen infants in Kazakhstan hospitals have been found to have HIV. The chief of the regional anti-AIDS center blamed degenerate parents. Not a bad guess; certainly drug use and prostitution have been the major driving force behind the spread of HIV into Central Asia. In this case, however, the victims were probably infected by tainted blood, a problem largely solved in developed countries but still problematic in much of the world. Attitudes like the official's in this case are a big part of the problem.
posted by thirteenkiller (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
A big part of the problem is callilng the sex trade and drug use 'degeneracy'.
posted by docgonzo at 3:24 PM on July 23, 2006


That's what I just said, plz read and ponder.
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:25 PM on July 23, 2006


I mean, wait a sec. Are you saying people who are involved in sex trade and drugs and get HIV from this lifestyle then give it to their children are not degenerate?

The guy blamed it on parents, saying they were like that. I would say the type of parents he described are indeed degenerate. I don't see a problem with that.

As I said in the post, there is a problem with attitudes about people with HIV and gay people and whatnot, who are not necessarily degenerate.
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2006


The chief of the regional anti-AIDS center blamed degenerate parents. Not a bad guess; certainly drug use and prostitution have been the major driving force behind the spread of HIV into Central Asia. (My emphasis.)

You equated drug use and commercial sex with degeneracy. This sort of moralising supports the social exclusion of people who use drugs and engage in commercial sex. This makes harm-reduction initiatives to prevent the transmission of HIV or get therapies to PLWHA more difficult.
posted by docgonzo at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2006


Oops. My emphasis didn't show up. Lemme try again:

The chief of the regional anti-AIDS center blamed degenerate parents. Not a bad guess; certainly drug use and prostitution have been the major driving force behind the spread of HIV into Central Asia. (My emphasis.)
posted by docgonzo at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2006


Okay. You think sharing needles isn't degenerate. That's cool.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2006


No, I think people who engage in IV drug use don't always have the opportunity, knowledge or power to use clean needles; more to the point, I don't think moralising helps them do that.
posted by docgonzo at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2006


I said just that in the post: "Moralizing" is a big part of the problem. Please see the last two links. I wasn't trying to present my own moral judgement of the people; rather I was paraphrasing the official's quote and the prevailing attitude of that society.

That said, I think it is not unreasonable to characterize the hypothetical parents described by the quoted official as degenerate. It seems you and I have some disagreement about that. Too bad, huh.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2006


I wasn't trying to present my own moral judgement of the people;

Yes, you were. The chief blamed "degenerates", you said that was "not a bad guess" as IDU and CSW have been the chief means of transmission of HIV-1 in the area. You did more than paraphrase; you agreed.

My point is that even people who may think themselves sensitive to the people involved in the HIV-1 pandemic are reproducing destructive, shallow and uninformed stereotypes that reinforce the forces powering transmission. This FPP is a perfect example.
posted by docgonzo at 4:26 PM on July 23, 2006


Instead of "are reproducing" replace with "can reproduce". Duh.
posted by docgonzo at 4:34 PM on July 23, 2006


Okay. I think they're degenerate. Degenerate means they have fallen to an inferior or undesirable state, especially in mental or moral qualities. It does not imply blame or irredeemability. I was not trying to insert a controversial moral judgement into the FPP. It's more of an objective observation. Some people have sick, pitiful lives.

This observation ("moralizing") becomes a problem when it's used to justify denying these people's human/political/civil rights or ignoring a problem like HIV.

It wasn't a bad guess, but the chief shouldn't have been guessing. That is really my moral take on the story.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:47 PM on July 23, 2006


The fact is that in this part of the world, HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in this part of the world and lack of education as well as poverty are huge problems in any attempt to prevent HIV from spreading.
posted by k8t at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2006


Did anyone read the first link? It says the children were infected via blood transfusion . . .
posted by 6:1 at 5:19 PM on July 23, 2006


Yes, but how'd the blood get infected in the first place?
posted by k8t at 5:30 PM on July 23, 2006


At least Kazakhstan has acknowledged that it was blood transfusions. Libya still has people on death row for "knowingly infecting several hundred children with HIV," rather than address any of the issues which actually caused the infections. My impression is that it was blood transfusions (poor hygeine at the local hospital is the reason usually given) in those cases as well...
posted by posadnitsa at 6:20 PM on July 23, 2006


Dammit, Borat...
posted by Swervo at 7:36 PM on July 23, 2006


My sister, she is number 4 prostitute in all of Kazakhstan.
posted by nyxxxx at 7:55 PM on July 23, 2006


Do they have some kind of competition?
posted by gsteff at 9:55 PM on July 23, 2006


A 2002 report by the CIA's National Intelligence Council predicted 20 million to 25 million AIDS cases in India by 2010, more than any other country in the world.

"How do you talk to about HIV/AIDS to someone who does not know the basics about health and hygiene?"

Most AIDS spreading in Central Asia is due to men using prostitutes, the oldest biz in the world. Syphilis used to be big due to prostitution, now it's AIDS.

Safe-sex advocates face a challenge in Uzbekistan, where the average monthly salary is $15. A pack of three condoms costs $1 -- a purchase few people can afford to make.

An Indian doctor I met here in NYC said he predicted 10% of India would die within 20 years of AIDS. That's 100 million people.
posted by nickyskye at 9:55 PM on July 23, 2006


An economist friend who lives in Kazakhstan has described their economy to me as quite corrupt. There's apparently an investment boom going on, because of the country's rapidly increasing importance as an oil exporter, and many public and private officials are getting rich off of it. The government is very sensitive to bad PR right now, because they don't want to stop the gravy train, and I imagine that Zhumagulov, the director of the anti-AIDS center, knew that making visiting businessmen nervous about the health system would not be good for his career.
posted by gsteff at 10:16 PM on July 23, 2006


I mean, wait a sec. Are you saying people who are involved in sex trade and drugs and get HIV from this lifestyle then give it to their children are not degenerate?

Yes, I would say that. At least, I would say they aren't necessarily 'degenerate,' and that even if some of them happen to be, focusing on that isn't going to solve anything.

Almost everybody who becomes infected with HIV (with a few notable exceptions, such as perinatal transmission) does so do to their 'lifestyle,' whether that lifestyle involves prostitution, drug use, homesexuality, premarital sex, or, as in the case of one women discussed in the articles you linked, marital sex. People turn to prostitution because of poverty and a lack of viable economic alternatives, people turn to drugs because of overwhelming hopelessness, people turn to sex out of a need for connection and physical pleasure and in fulfilment of normal biological urges, and they don't use condoms because they can't afford them, their partner refuses, or they don't believe they are at risk. Saying their lifestyles are 'degenerate' is neither helpful nor accurate.

Playing the blame game also tends to assume that people are acting on perfect information, but this is seldom true. If someone engages in a behavior knowing that it puts them at risk for contracting HIV, then becomes infected, then discovers that they are infected, then purposefully becomes pregnant, and then takes no precautions to keep their child from becoming infected-- well, a good case could be made that they have acted unethically. But that's seldom what happens.

The articles linked mention in several places the lack of accurate information about HIV. 50 percent of young people think the virus is transmitted by kissing, 30 percent think you can get it from being in the same room as people. A prostitute interviewed talks about clients who won't use condoms, and how making them withdraw before ejaculating is good enough-- and goes on to say that, being very experienced, she can tell by looking at someone if they are sick or not. It's an environment in which people don't have a clear idea about whether and how they are at risk.

The articles don't mention specifically the availability of testing, but I'm guessing that, as in most poor areas, it's not a great situation. It does mention compulsory registering and treatment of women diagnosed with veneral diseases-- the sort of policy that is likely to deter women from utilzing what testing is available. Even if HIV testing is affordable and within reach, many people would not know if they need it or not, or may assume that because they have no symptoms, they could not be sick.

It alarms me that a doctor at a hospital would incorrectly blame parents for HIV infected children-- it tells me, for one, that women, even high-risk women, aren't being tested for HIV prenatally, in order to take precautions against perinatal transmission. In situations where HIV positive women are treated with antiretrovirals before and during birth, and all possible precautions are taken against transmission during birth, the likelihood of transmission to the child can be reduced to practically 0. But clearly this kind of care is not available to the people of Kazakhstan, and even the most basic precautions are not being taken.

This situation screams for education-- of high-risk and low-risk Kazakhs alike, of medical professionals, and of government policy makers. I really hope things start getting better, because until some serious changes take place, HIV is going to continue to spread.
posted by bookish at 7:19 AM on July 24, 2006


I remember a presentation back in the mid-90s by the late Jay Sanford. He said that if you're ever in the third world and get injured, don't let them give you blood. "You may have to pant like a lizard, but don't let them give you blood," he said.
posted by neuron at 7:27 PM on July 24, 2006


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