It's sad that South Africa, a country ravaged by HIV/AIDS, still has these kinds of misconceptions floating around.
A recent study done suggests that people who adhere to conspiracy theories about HIV-- that it was created by scientists, for example-- are half as likely to use condoms. Even more disturbing is a trend among young, black South Africans to believe this sort of rot. Respondents in the 20-29 range were 8 to 10 times more likely to believe an HIV conspiracy theory than others.
From Plus News:
"Among black respondents, 20 percent believed that HIV was man-made and created by scientists as an attack on people of African descent, according to a University of Cape Town (UCT) study.
"New research by Nicoli Nattrass, director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at UCT, also found that AIDS conspiracy believers are 50 percent less likely to report having used a condom the last time they had sex than non-believers. Respondents with traditional values, and those who had lower socio-economic status but were not religious, were more likely to believe there was a conspiracy."
Even though we here at home consider ourselves far more educated, conspiracy theories about the virus abound in America as well, propagated by hate groups and white supremacists. The very idea that God uses HIV to punish sinners is a very popular one, and can lead to false and dangerous suppositions about the disease. After all, if you don't believe you're a sinner, you can't get HIV, right?
The study's data seems to provide a solution, however: respondents who had heard of the Treatment Action Campaign (an HIV/AIDS issues-based lobbying group) were more educated and reported a higher rate of use of condoms. The key here? Education and talking about the issue. Given the recent decline of HIV/AIDS in American political discussions, I worry that we're robbing a generation of youth (gay and straight) of the necessary tools to remain HIV-free.