The AIDS Pandemic: Searching for a Global Response

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Michael Merson, the second Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Program on AIDS, and co-author Stephen Inrig have described, in gripping detail, the personal antagonisms, interpersonal wrangling, and bureaucratic intrigue that explained the failure of the first global response to the HIV epidemic (Merson & Inrig, 2018). However, I believe that the decision of WHO, Western researchers, and the media to ignore the role of reuse of contaminated syringes and needles in health care settings and to instead emphasize African people's sex with multiple partners was more critical in the explosion of HIV in Africa than personal animosities and bureaucratic disputes. Merson & Inrig (2018) euphemistically noted that,As researchers traced the origins of AIDS back to different countries in Africa, epidemiological data mixed with anthropological conjecture fostering several unwarranted speculations that allegedly unique aspects of “African culture” played a role in the spread of the disease. The conjecture that made it to the academic and popular press often seemed to blame Africans for AIDS, or assigned the origins of AIDS to allegedly taboo sexual practices in African countries. (p. 23)

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