An interesting article appeared a few years ago in the African Journal of Political Science and International Relations about the African Diaspora, global learning and HIV/AIDS. The authors, Ngoyi K. Zacharie Bukonda and Tumba Ghislain Disashi, members of the African Diaspora themselves, are troubled by a number of things, not least the fact that they are not even given credit for their humanitarian work in Africa by Africans, let alone by non-Africans.
They carried out a program aiming to reduce HIV infection through unsafe medical practices in healthcare facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They ran hundreds of training courses in infection control procedures and related issues, covering reduction of transmission of HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne diseases, quality improvement, and the like.
The authors note the patronizing attitude of non-Africans towards Africans in the HIV/AIDS field, where the dominant paradigm is of heterosexual transmission of the virus, with non-sexual transmission, such as through unsafe healthcare practices, almost entirely dismissed. This paradigm is even accepted and taught throughout African healthcare systems, despite substantial bodies of evidence that unsafe healthcare probably makes a significant contribution.
The paradigm is so pervasive that Africans, at home and abroad, view HIV/AIDS as a disease that results from promiscuous behavior, one that infects promiscuous people. The authors have not come across any other HIV/AIDS programs initiated by members of the African Diaspora that address this vital area of non-sexual (or vertical) HIV transmission.
A broader view of global learning is suggested on the basis of the authors’ experience of engaging their fellow Africans in this program, where things can be less formal and less geared towards specific qualifications. They feel that the part global learning could play in things like poverty reduction and HIV prevention and treatment have been neglected in standard definitions of the concept.
In addition, Africans of the Diaspora have not been accepted by the broader academic community as learners or as facilitators of global learning. They are not considered to have the capability or the inclination to mitigate epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, nor any other global problem, such as poverty. They do not even get recognition from Africans for what they have achieved and are depicted as disloyal and unpatriotic in the African press.
It is very disturbing that the view of the HIV industry towards Africans is not just that HIV is a disease spread by their own behavior, but also that Africans, even well educated Africans, are not capable of analysing HIV epidemics and allocating appropriate resources on the basis of differing circumstances that prevail among different African countries and within different parts of those countries.