Miss HIV as reviewed by the Phantom TollboothCondoms vs. abstinence - the civil war in response to AIDS.


(Ethnographic Media)

Just when you thought the battle was about AIDS, you find out it’s about ideology,’ claims the not-for-profit educational organisation EGM in the award-winning Miss HIV.

While governments, charities and NGOs battle to control the runaway spread of AIDS/HIV, there is a civil war in their ranks about how to fight it in Africa.

Uganda has developed its own ‘ABC’ method (Abstain, Be faithful, Condoms if you can’t), which is based on Christian morality and arguably the most effective strategy seen so far in the world. It reduced the nation’s HIV rate from 30% to 6% of the population in a decade.

However, a by-product of the approach is the stigma that victims of the disease feel, even faithful wives of unfaithful husbands, and this reduces people’s willingness to go for testing so also leading to deaths.

The Miss HIV of the title refers to a beauty pageant for HIV sufferers to reduce the stigma and give themselves back some of the dignity that the disease has stripped away.

The stigma is one of the elements that makes Western aid organisations reject the ABC method. The West also places a higher value than Africans on choice and the right to have sex with a number of partners without judgement.

This hour-long DVD aims to expose this cultural dilemma and asks whether we should really be using western values in Africa at the expense of human lives.

Maybe in trying to be fair to both sides, the line of argument is not clear on first view, but this thought-provoking documentary presents each case forcefully and is ideal for discussion groups considering the merits of condom use vs. abstinence.

Derek Walker