In HIV science, as in all science, there are theories that are well-supported by the evidence, such as providing antiretroviral treatment and that using condoms reduces the risk of transmitting HIV, and there are theories that are speculative. There are widely differing views among HIV scientists about Helen Epstein's views on concurrency in her book "The Invisible Cure". Helen Zille describes it as providing the "meticulously researched scientific answer", that is that "The root cause of our AIDS crisis is the entrenched culture of multiple concurrent sexual partners, aggravated by inter-generational sex."
Whether one agrees with Epstein or not, her book's theories fall into the speculative category; the evidence she proposes for her theory is highly speculative. But even if one agrees with Epstein --and many HIV scientists do-- it does not follow that criminalisation of HIV, as proposed by Ms Zille, is the answer.
South Africa's HIV community has been pouring over the best response to the epidemic in drafting the country's next AIDS Plan - the National Strategic Plan 2012-2016. It contains a rational, rights-based approach to HIV, squarely grounded on the best available evidence. It does not endorse the criminalisation of adult, consensual sex or the transmission of HIV - instead it focuses on providing access to treatment, care and support and social justice.
It is regrettable that neither Premier Zille nor the DA made any submissions during the extensive consultation on the Plan in the last months.
Implementing this excellent Plan is what Premier Zille should be focusing her energies - not on playing police in the bedroom.
Marlise Richter is a PhD Candidate: International Centre for Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ghent University, Belgium and Visiting Researcher: African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
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