Belgium and AIDS: a little modesty, please.

Friends, the Belgian Parliament condemned the Pope Benedict's declarations while he was en route to Cameroon. I wrote the column below, which was published in La Libre Belgique.Here is an English translation, thanks to Rebeka and Rituu. Your suggestions and reflections are most welcome!

By pretending to lecture Pope Benedict XVI, the Belgian Federal Parliament followed in lockstep with virulent reactions to the second half of the third part of his brief remarks. Would the pope suffer from autism? Would he prefer death to life? Drag the pope to court for non assistance to a person in danger! Call our ambassador!
True, the pope has said that condoms could have a negative impact. Obviously, this is not the case in ideal circumstances. Used in these conditions, the effectiveness of condoms is close to 100%. Promoters of condom use talk in absolute terms and omit to consider its progam effectiveness. The protagonists of abstinence and fidelity do the same: in absolute terms, these methods are also 100% effective. Seulement voila: in real life, there are accidents of condoms, as there are accidents of abstinence and fidelity.
Why such an uproar around this papal sentence? What if the anthropologist Patrick Viveret was right? “Westerners do not love themselves. That is why they take refuge behind the object” -he said in the dialogues of Humanity in Lyon in 2004. Otherwise, why would the "international community" limit its HIV and AIDS priorities to the sole access to the means of prevention and care? Is it because it chooses to focus on elements it believes it can control?
African countries did not ask for any statement by Belgium. They know only too well that as a whole, the pope's message reflects the truth. First, money alone does not solve the problem. What results does the "international community" have to show for the 8 billion dollars invested each year in the fight against AIDS? Secondly, African leaders know that to resolve the problem, people will need to take responsibility and act for themselves. However, because of the materialistic vision that underpins international strategies, nationwide implementation of the facilitation of local ownership and local action are sorely lacking. Yet, when such strategies are implemented, results are real.
Michel Serres writes: "Only exists that what is said." Without discussion of the local situation, there is no local action. One can therefore say that in many countries, including ours, AIDS does not exist.
Our parliamentarians would be more useful by raising some questions concerning the situation in Belgium. Can our representatives reassure taxpayers about the cost-effectiveness of Belgian (federal, regional, community) care and prevention programs? What programs allow all young Belgians to recognize their own vulnerabilities and act to reduce them? How is it possible that Belgians die of AIDS due to lack of care for which they have free access? And since we claim that we act in solidarity, how do we ensure access to care and prevention for asylum seekers and people in extra legal situations in our country?
Let us rediscover modesty before it is too late. Our relative wealth does not provide any justification for our pretense that we are experts.

Jean-Louis Lamboray
Constellation for AIDS Competence face
published on 8 April 2009 in the Libre Belgique

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