Op-Ed: How I Stayed HIV-Negative in Zimbabwe

Pope Benedict XVI’s maiden visit to Africa was, at best, a disaster. The controversy-laden trip concluded on a sad note when two Angolan teenage girls died in a stampede to enter a stadium where the Pope presided over a youth rally. At least eight people were injured.  

For what, exactly, did Africa lose these two precious lives? I wouldn’t die for God. I wouldn’t hurt another for God. The Pope, a mere mortal, is not worth dying for.  

For Africa, this pope is especially not worth dying for. He opened his tour by suggesting that Africans should shun condoms. It took four years for Pope Benedict XVI to make his first papal visit to Africa and his best advise to Africans is that using condoms to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS is wrong.  

HIV/AIDS is now the biggest killer on the continent. Three-quarters of yearly AIDS deaths worldwide are in sub-Saharan Africa and all the Pope asks for is more prayer, marital fidelity and pre-marital abstinence?  

What rank madness!  

"You can’t resolve it (HIV/AIDS) with the distribution of condoms," the pope reportedly said. Of course you can’t RESOLVE it at the moment. HIV/AIDS is a disease and there is no cure yet. But new infections can be prevented.  

I spend seventeen years of my sexually-active years in Zimbabwe, one of the most affected African countries. I was single all this time. Pope Benedict thinks I lived like a nun?  

I had a pretty robust sex life. There is a healthy chance the majority of the women were HIV-positive. Add another nine years spend in North America after leaving Zimbabwe. I am still single, living in an HIV-ravaged world but still HIV-negative.  

I suppose the Pope would have the world believe that my story is a miracle. Fine, but the condom was my miracle thing. It has so far been my biggest protector.  

Often, in Zimbabwe, I’d run out of condoms or just not care about using one. My partner would produce a whole pack of either male condoms or females femidoms from her purse and we would proceed to have "safe sex".  

Zimbabwean women often joke that leaving home without a condom in the purse is like heading to the war-front without a gun. Is it any wonder that, in recent years, African countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya have experienced a sharp drop in HIV prevalence rates?  

In the real world, people do not live the lives of priests and nuns. They have sex for procreation and pleasure.  

If the Pope really cared about Africa, where an estimated 17% of Africans are baptized Catholics, he would have embraced the reality of HIV and AIDS on the continent. By maintaining a position informed by morality and tradition the Pope might as well have suggested that Africans should just die en masse.