Politics, Rape & HIV in South Africa

Contributing Editor Jules also blogs at Dragon Girl.

Since there is no Contributing Editor for Africa (any volunteers?), I thought that I would pick up this story, since it seems too important to not mention it.

The verdict in the Jacob Zuma (the former deputy president of South Africa) rape trial in Johannesburg has just been handed down, with Zuma acquitted of rape. The case touched on so many hot button issues, but the Big Issue reported in the media has been the fact that the accuser is HIV positive, sex occurred without a condom, and Zuma's beliefs about how HIV is contracted.

From the NY Times:

At the same time, the judge excoriated Mr. Zuma for what he called his "totally unacceptable" behavior in having unprotected sex with his accuser, an H.I.V.-positive AIDS activist, outside his existing marriages to other women.

Once his government's leading official on AIDS issues, Mr. Zuma testified that he believed he had little risk of contracting the AIDS virus because he had showered after having sex with the woman. The remark enraged women's-rights groups and AIDS activists in a nation where more than one in eight adults is H.I.V.-positive and the incidence of rape is reported to be among the highest on earth.

AIDS hotlines were briefly besieged after his testimony with queries from men asking whether soap and water could prevent AIDS infections. Judge Van der Merwe said today that Mr. Zuma's remark was beneath comment.

After all of the HIV/AIDS education that has gone on in South Africa, I find it astounding that these kinds of attitudes and beliefs can still exist.


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