Aids: The moral sore The Reporter (Addis Ababa)
December 8, 1999

Addis Ababa - A vigorous international campaign is being conducted to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the international scourge is posing a formidable threat to the continued physical and mental well-being of people living in various parts of the world - particularly in developing countries.

It behoves all concerned, therefore, to fight a winning war against a disease that is sapping the energies of the most productive segment of the society and bringing about the untimely death of tens of millions of people. There is every reason in the world to believe that HIV/AIDS is one of the most serious diseases that our own country has been facing for some time now. There is, therefore, an imperative need to brace ourselves up for eradicating the epidemic from this country by synchronizing our efforts with what is being done elsewhere in the world.

There is no difference whatsoever in the modes of transmission between HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The nearly 20- year-old international scourge - like syphilis or gonorrhoea - is being also sexually transmitted. Under such circumstances, prevention is certainly better than cure. And, advocating the use of the condom alone is tantamount to merely spreading the gospel of sexual licence. Surely, the problem should be tackled from its very roots. The most important reason to account for the systematic spread of HIV/AIDS in the African social milieu in particular is the prevalence of prostitution and promiscuous sexual relations on a formidable scale. Unless effective measures are taken to find a solution to this pernicious problem, we would be finding ourselves exactly where we had always been.

Prostitution has been sending its roots deeper and deeper into our society ever since the creation of a standing army in this country. According to an estimate made now some time ago, there are about 200,000 prostitutes in Ethiopia who pose a veritable threat to the health of the citizenry. Of course, the women are being forced by dire economic circumstances to sustain and prolong the life of this extremely disreputable profession. The problem is being considerably aggravated in this country by the fact that there is a socially dangerous combination of women, wine and song in operation in an endless string of public bars in our urban centres. At the same time also when the marital age being put off until even the forties as a result of social insecurity brought about by anarchic urbanization, promiscuous sexual relations are being naturally encouraged among the youth of the land.

To make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past, therefore, it is imperative to root out all sexually transmitted diseases by outlawing prostitution. It is instructive to note that prostitution does not legally exist in this country. At the same time, however, what we are witnessing is the illegal practice of what is believed to be the "oldest profession" in numerous dens of vice that happen to be the unofficial bordellos of the nation. There is also a burning need for our religious leaders to go to the rescue of the public by bringing questions related to the sanctity of marriage to the attention of the younger generation.

Promiscuous sexual relations and prostitution are two evils that we should fight against tooth and nail in the vital interest of the fundamental health of our society. Until then, it is inevitable for HIV/AIDS to continue wreaking unnecessary havoc on our morally and economically impoverished nation.