This discussion has more in common with religion than science. HIV can be
introduced into a heterosexual environment and then be sexually spread where it
otherwise wouldn't. That's how Paul Michael Glaser (of Starksy And Hutch fame)
lost his family in the US. So to say that this research has to either be
embraced or rejected is a nonsense. On the other hand, if one of the main
reasons for the heterosexual spread of HIV originates with injections in
hospitals or vaccination programs and the re-use of disposable needles, that has
to brought to attention. And the phrase "dirty needles" obscures the plethora of
other possible ways HIV can be spread through the healthcare system
(transfusions, transplants, even dentistry).
Alex van Deelen, The Netherlands
It is not the HIV/Aids that is killing the people in Africa, but it is the
hunger and poverty that ravage the continent that kill the people. Looking at
the areas where this disease is more common, it is realized that it is more
common to the poor who cannot provide a day's meal and their daughters ending up
in prostitution. So my advice to the international aid agencies is share the
continent's cake equally which will help to eradicate this epidemic.
John Saccoh, Canada
The spread of Aids/HIV infections are caused not only by contaminated needles
used by people and unlawful sexual contact by people, but also due to poverty of
individual nations and communities, lack of education, and unfairness of richer
nations and communities to distribute their wealth fairly among nations and
communities in need. The solution is not distributing condoms or supplying clean
needles to social beings as prevention, which will of course encourage more
unlawful sexual contacts, hence, the spread of deadly diseases. The only and
best solution is abstinence and faithfulness.
Ismail N'Dow, U.S.A./ The Gambia
I feel it's just another way the West is trying to undermine health services
in Africa. It is all a frame up! In Nigeria, all government hospitals use
disposable needles. In my view the report is false.
Ayodeji Odunewu, Nigeria
I have worked in Africa for many years and the dirty needle theory has been
suggested for many years. I have never heard of Africans taking drugs
intravenously and there seems to be fewer cases of gay men in African
communities than in other societies. Also the cases of STD have not risen in
proportion with the number of Aids cases. There are more sex workers in SE Asia
than Africa. The Aids epidemic coincides with the mass vaccinations in Africa in
the 70s and 80s
Graham Jubb, UK
Don't these people deserve more after so much exploitation?
Long ago, in the early days of the epidemic, there was discussion about HIV
spreading due to smallpox and other types of inoculations; the speculation being
that the vaccines had been grown unknowingly on tissue cultures infected with
the Aids virus. The medical practice at the time, repeated using of needles
without sterilisation, spread the disease. This discussion, about the origin of
infection and how it spread, died out with the hysteria about sexual practices
etc and probably diverted a huge lawsuit as well. It is worth re-examining this
time. The best and the brightest are dying. Some of the billions thrown at the
chaos created by the Middle East could help solve these and other problems all
over the African continent today. Don't these people deserve more after so much
I was a youth councillor in Jinja, Uganda in the mid to the late 90s and I
used to distribute condoms supplied by the government to youths. Many Ugandans
are now more open to talking about sexuality than any other region on the
continent of Africa. And the government has tried to supply condoms to urban
youths as well as making media announcements on many FM stations and newspapers.
However the truth about all the praises on Uganda's declining Aids figures does
not reflect the true reality on the ground. The fact is that the figures are
more urban than rural. They are based on conclusions from a few urban areas in
Uganda where people are more open about HIV/Aids. A great majority of people in
rural areas die of the scourge than from any other fatality and a great majority
of them are not diagnosed to confirm otherwise.
Hussein K. Bosser, UK, Uganda
As you probably know, South Africa has one of the highest rates of infection
in the world. It also has a reasonable healthcare system where needles are not
reused, and fairly good sterile conditions are in place. From this I'd deduce
that infection takes place in another location other than the hospital or health
R McGrath, S Africa
The West is also under no moral obligation to help those who refuse
to help themselves
The primary cause of Aids in Africa is bad governance. All the subsidiary
causes such as poverty, lack of education and starvation stem from this. On a
national scale, all of Africa's problems are self-inflicted. The only guilt the
West should feel is over their spinelessness and lack of commitment to remove
dictatorships and promote genuine democracy in Africa. Once that has been done,
fair trade is far better than financial aid. Aids is not a huge problem in
prosperous countries. The West is also under no moral obligation to help those
who refuse to help themselves.
C. Frizell, UK/Zimbabwe
There is no way Aids can be prevented in Africa other than by creating equal
opportunities for all. The leaders should be more serious in closing the gap
between the poor and the rich.
Sitta Turay, Sierra Leone
I work and live in Tanzania. For more than 10 yrs now I have seen so many HIV
prevention programs and most of them are based on advising on safe sex as the
major factor of controlling HIV spread. A lot of condoms are available and used,
but the HIV is spreading more than before despite all these efforts taken since
then. About the new findings of contaminated needles I can say that it is true
according to my experience in Tanzania. Lot of people in our country are poor
that they can't afford to have safe but expensive medical treatment so they
receive a cheaper medical treatment which includes using of one needle for
If AIDS was only an STD, it would mean that Africans are more
promiscuous than all other people in the world, which is not true.
I think there is some truth in it. If AIDS was only an STD, then it would
mean that Africans are more promiscuous than all other people in the world,
which is not true. The UNAIDS accepts that needles spread only 5% of AIDS in
Africa, but 5% of millions is already a huge figure, the truth might actually be
Dr Peter Waiswa, Uganda
We will have no chance of stopping AIDS in Africa so long as people like the
President of South Africa continue to go on national television and tell those
watching (80% of whom are HIV-positive) that AIDS is a myth the White man
invented to stop the Black man from procreating.
Inna Tysoe, USA
This is a further attempt by the excessively liberal to detach peoples
responsibility for their actions and lifestyle from the consequences and shift
John Lavender, England
I definitely have not carried out a study on the transmission of HIV/AIDS but
I know for sure that the people I know who are/were infected were not because of
needles. It is mainly from sexual contact. Maybe the research was done in a part
of Africa where infections are through needles. I know for sure is that most
people believe that they can not be infected and that AIDS 'came' for others.
One thing I wish Government could do is for the President to openly declare AIDS
a national disaster and take a leading role in the fight against. Having
ministers talk about it is not enough, let Levy Mwanawasa add his weight behind
this fight. Ultimately, I believe AIDS can be stopped. If Uganda did it, why
can't we do it?
Kabwe Chilufya, Zambia
The spread is more due to cultural practices
I worked in Botswana for four years; the AIDS epidemic isn't believed to be
true by schoolchildren - they say "people don't die of AIDS". I would venture
the spread is more due to cultural aspects, as the practice of having 'nyatsi'-
girlfriends and boyfriends is so widespread.
I do not only disagree with these findings, but also begin to question the
reliability of the the research report. Yes it can be stopped, depending on how
"stopping the epidemic" is defined. At the end of the day drug companies are run
by people for profit, which could be reduced insignificantly by providing
cheaper medicines to developing countries.
Lovemore Mandizha, Zimbabwe
Yes. HIV/AIDS can be stopped. Through (1) political will, (2) education/IEC,
(3) easy access to condoms. (In my country access to condoms in rural areas is
hard) (4) Free ARVs for all in need of them, (5) mulri-sectoralism in tackling
the problem. Unfortunately, from an African perspective, what has hampered
development in the 40 years post colonialism is what is hampering tackling the
HIV/AIDS epidemic. Kaphetsa Kalanda, Liverpool, UK.
Kaphetsa Kalanda, UK/ Malawi.
I agree, "dirty" needles could well be a very important cause for significant
numbers of HIV cases. Poverty and lack of financing simply force doctors and
nurses to use injection needles more than once. This does not exactly help
convince the public of the necessity for safe sex, but it should definitely be
an important item for the WHO. No one should ignore the necessities - send money
for injection needles!
Daniela, Berlin, Germany
The High HIV Infection rate in Africa has got to do with ignorant through the
lack of education, which results in unsafe sex and the virus spreading.
John Sterianos, South Africa(Living in London)
I lived in Uganda when the AIDS epidemic broke out. What is happening in
Southern Africa is similar to what was happening in Uganda in the 1980s and
1990s. I lost almost 30 relatives and at least 50 schoolmates to the disease.
Now however, deaths are substantially reduced. So what saved Uganda? Good
government! The Uganda government realised quickly that they had to tackle
African attitudes towards sex (cultural especially) and give women more rights
and influence in society. I doubt this 'dirty needle' theory because of what I
have seen in Uganda. Men there are now more willing to use condoms and treat
women equally in relationships - there was a substantial rise in the number of
church marriages! In schools the government flooded students with sex education
leaflets and lessons, so that many of them are now more aware and protect
themselves. Large posters were also erected in parts of the cities warning
people every minute of everyday. Southern African countries need to adopt a
similar attitude. Trying to find excuses (ie dirty needles) will not help.
Having worked as an AIDS program manager in Nigeria for 3 years I can
confidently say it is not the USE of dirty needles. The spread of AIDS in Africa
is due to promiscuity. Initially the blame was on women and for the past 15
years the campaign "just say no" was directed at women. Now many workers have
realised that women in Africa have no right to refuse a man sex. So now the men
are targeted. In fact the last world AIDS day Dec1 2002 was directed at men.
This will require a major behaviour change on the part of men who have
traditionally had many sexual partners As for drugs, if a country like India can
provide drugs at a cost of $350 per patient per year then the US and Europe can
afford to lower its cost from$35000 to what India is providing
Whether or not the findings are entirely accurate we should be providing the
people of Africa with cheaper (or free) medicines. It is capitalism at its worst
if we can continue with selling the world's most impoverished countries with
medicines at a profit to these multi billion dollar pharmaceuticals.
While visiting a town in Zaire (DR. Congo), I was horrified to watch
immunizations in which the Zone Medical Officer used the same needle on twenty
children before refilling the syringe and continuing on the next twenty. The
towns in DRC are 45% HIV while the "healthcare" deprived hinterlands are 2%.
Helen and Marie from UK are misguided¿ Do they realise how much it costs to
develop one drug?? It can be up to a billion GBP and this is for one that gets
approved for use, never mind all the ones that have to be scrapped during
development. The answer to these diseases is education in the developing world
and a more moral lifestyle in the West.
Having spent most of my life in South Africa I can say I have never
experienced or witnessed an injection with a dirty needle. However, tribal norms
dictate dangerous sexual promiscuity.
I am not sure whether the US experts are right or not. What I do know is that
13 million people are sure to have already contracted Aids in Africa and who
knows how many will not take the test because they think there is no cure (and
mind you there probably isn't in their country). What I know for sure is that
condoms won't do much to save them: they need the whole HEART treatment and a
little extra food to support it.
M.B. , ITALY
We have heard that the BBC reported that Swaziland HIV AIDS victims are 1 in
4. My father, Dr Samuel W. Hynd CBE (1999), operates his clinic here in Manzini,
the hub of Swaziland. His reaction was that this figure may be even higher. The
Swazi nation continues to ignore the threat of AIDS. Out of all the patients
that come to my father's clinic 85% are HIV AIDS victims.
Audrey Hynd, Swaziland
Having just read the BBC report on how Cuba has effectively dealt with AIDS
surely the rest of the world can control it? It takes political will, tough
decisions and money. Many poor countries cannot feed healthy people so is
unreasonable of us to expect them to prolong the suffering of the malnourished
as well as the chronically ill? We rich nations can help, the problem is we are
too blinkered on spending money for weapons.
Suzanne Stockman, Paris France
This allegation should not be welcome at all from any source. If HIV is
spread from using dirty needles in Africa, does that also means that the HIV
victims in America and any other developed countries also uses dirty needles to
inject patients? If the uses of dirty needles were to be the issue, definitely
there should not be any HIV candidates in America.
What is more important is the way the epidemic is treated. Why has it taken
over 20 years to decide that HIV/AIDS is a problem in Africa? Why was something
not done before now, now it is going to be the biggest human disaster? Call me a
cynic but is this the Western world's way of cutting down the overpopulated
countries?? The drug companies need to be made to give drugs to all of these
millions of people suffering in silence.
Helen Peplow, UK
It doesn't matter whether or not the percentage is correct. We should be able
to guarantee that everybody in the world has access to clean needles and clean
Anthony , Germany (UK)
Those people who have contracted HIV and AIDS need every assistance from the
West, but African leaders on BBC news over the last few days say themselves that
it is sexual promiscuity which is causing the AIDS epidemic. What are the
African nations doing to change their own destructive patterns of behavior? If
they don't change then the epidemic will continue with vast numbers on
Peter Farrington, England
More fiddling while Rome burns. Millions of children are dying and we debate
an argument over the cause! We should invade Africa with medical help and if any
African leaders on the take get in the way they should be brushed aside and nuts
to the consequences. We (the West) have the power to force people to live and we
should use it.
The biggest problem of all is education. With a virus that has now been
around and in the public eye for many years, third world countries still lack
the necessities to explain how to protect against such a killer.
R Peacock, UK
No one can claim to have an immediate solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that
is destroying so many of our people's lives. However, the reason why Africa has
become more susceptible to it than any other region is that African rulers
(including Mandela's own successor!) have adopted a nauseatingly escapist
attitude towards it. Whether the infection comes from needles or from sex,
African rulers are to blame for not educating the people sufficiently, and for
wasting scarce resources on arms, rather than on healthcare.
The needles used are new. There can be other transmission of aids through the
barbers clippers for example. Especially in the new age of the Shaulin cut where
the clippers are moved forwards and backwards until there is no trace of hair.
The injuries from this kind of cut should be sufficient to transmit aids and
other blood bone diseases, I think.
I am originally from a developing country, and I know for sure we share
needles more than we share women in Africa.
This was not new research - just a review of past studies - and should
therefore not be treated too seriously. Whilst the report will doubtless be
seized upon by the Catholic Church and used to justify their shameful opposition
to condoms we must just hope that the people who matter in Africa, the voice of
the UN experts will prevail. Cuba's success in keeping the epidemic at minimal
levels should serve as a lesson to the world on the importance of a coherent
Stuart W, UK
Drug companies should definitely be made to provide developing countries with
cheaper medicines, as these are the countries that are worst affected and in the
worst position to do anything about it. We need to bring the epidemic under
control, through better health education or better medical care in Africa if
that is what it really is down to which I doubt. People really need to open
their eyes to this, it's real and it's happening. Drugs shouldn't be about
profit for the companies, they should be available for anyone affected so that
Aids can finally be halted once and for all, before it claims even more lives.