‘Fatalism,’ Poverty Create ‘Cynicism’ About Condoms Among South African Men, New York Times Series Says
The New York Times, in today's installment of its "Death and Denial" series about AIDS in Hlabisa, South Africa, reports that "everyone in Hlabisa has been advised to use condoms, but few do." Poverty, ignorance, "fatalism," myths and "cynicism" all play a role in residents' decisions not to use condoms. Although some men interviewed in local bars said that they may use condoms "20% to 50% of the time," they added that "[b]ecause we are Zulus, we don't believe AIDS can affect us. We see our sisters dying, but we don't believe it's AIDS. We think it's TB or pneumonia." Some of the men said that "sex with a condom is not really sex," and some believe that "the white man" provides condoms to prevent Africans from reproducing, or that AIDS is actually inside condoms. Several women interviewed by the Times said that they cannot ask a partner to use condoms, as he "would accuse her of being promiscuous or infected." The Times concludes that the "common element" among men and women in Hlabisa "is that poverty and tradition have made safe sex almost impossible" (McNeil, New York Times, 11/29).
Prostitutes Face Deadly Decisions on Condom Use
In an accompanying article, the Times reports that prostitutes at truck stops in the KwaZulu-Natal province have seen an increase in the number of men willing to use condoms, although there have been "few changes in the attitudes of the truckers." Thandi, who has been a prostitute for 13 years and discovered she was HIV-positive in 1994, said, "Now maybe seven men in 10 will agree to use a condom. When I started, it was two in 10." Thandi and other women working at the truck stops say that some men continue to refuse to use condoms, or they poke holes in the condoms that they provide. Several of the women insisted that they would not have sex with a client without a condom, no matter how much money he offered. Faith, a prostitute who insisted that she is HIV-negative, said, "If a man doesn't want to use one, I say he can't sleep with me," adding, "Life is more important than money" (McNeil, New York Times, 11/29). Both articles, in addition to the previous articles in the series, are available online at nytimes.com/international.