What Africa Can Teach the West

By Matthew Hanley and Jokin de Irala

National Catholic Bioethics Center, 2010

202 pages, $17.95

To order: (215) 877-2660

Three decades into the AIDS pandemic, the death tolls retain the capacity to shock: 65 million persons infected; 25 million already buried. In sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic’s epicenter, 6,800 persons become infected each day as another 6,000 die.

Will this plague ever end?

Not unless we in the West discard some of our most cherished ideas and start listening to Africans, say the authors of this insightful new book.

Worldwide, 27% of people with AIDS are cared for by the Church. Yet her commonsense proposals to fight the spreading virus by teaching people how to abstain (if single) or to be faithful (if married) are routinely shunned and despised.

Billions of ill-spent dollars poured into Africa “have failed [to reverse the epidemic] and in the process have compounded rather than reduced human suffering,” charge authors Matthew Hanley (former HIV/AIDS technical adviser for Catholic Relief Services) and Dr. Jokin de Irala (of the University of Navarra in Spain).

In an eye-opening review of the scientific evidence, Hanley and de Irala show that “fundamental changes in sexual behavior, particularly declines in multiple sexual partnerships, are what have led to every instance of falling HIV rates in Africa.”

They build a strong scientific case for the hopeful message that African populations can — and do — modify their sexual behavior when given accurate public-health messages. Further, they offer the facts to show that when Africans change their behavior HIV rates consistently plunge.

Yet the authors charge that the Western “AIDS Establishment,” a consortium of powerful international agencies that includes the World Health Organization, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development, are blinded by their sexual “freedom” ideology and refuse to see the answer before their eyes.

The African AIDS epidemic has led Hanley and de Irala to aim their ax of reason directly at the philosophically rotten root of the West’s endlessly ballyhooed sexual “revolution” — a movement that, when exported abroad, has devastated much of the African continent by splitting sex from responsibility, sex from truth, sex from love.

Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS is a wake-up call: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Ideas have consequences, and we are all consumers.

What deadly ideas have we consumed along with our morning coffee?

The widespread conviction that it’s no great injustice to use others as objects of sexual desire has contributed to millions of African deaths. With this new book, Hanley and de Irala have planted a seed of truth destined to sprout into a wider dialogue as African death tolls continue to mount.

Sue Ellin Browder writes from Ukiah, California.