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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 28, 2008

Philosophy in Africa

Workineh Kelbessa
Pages 93-119

African Philosophy of Sex and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

The aim of this study is to undertake an in-depth conceptual and ethical analysis of African philosophy of sex and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa by taking the Oromo of Ethiopia as an example. The continent with just 10% of the world’s population is home to over 70% of the world’s HIV/AIDS infection. HIV/AIDS is a social, economic, demographic and moral problem as well as a health care issue. Some scholars hypothesise that the unique nature of African sexuality, sexual promiscuity, the prevalence of other ailments, and the unique nature of the viral subtypes (known as clades) are the major reasons for Africa’s AIDS prevalence. However, there is little substance to their hypotheses. As of today there is no sound explanation for the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa. So far the HIV intervention has largely focused on behaviours, systems and structures which are visible without fully taking into account culture, values, norms and traditions which are invisible but have a strong influence on visible aspects of individual behaviours and societal structures. Thus, this issue requires further research into people’s philosophy of sex and indigenous moral values. This study and the contributions of many scholars have shown that Africans have a diverse spectrum of sexual behaviour ranging from the very restrictive to the permissive. Although some ethnic groups have developed a profound philosophy of ex that can curb the expansion of HIV/AIDS, there have been some sexual and religious norms and expectations in Africa that have contributed to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS. Social, economical, and political forces have also shaped the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This paper thus suggests that global fight against HIV/AIDS should go beyond a narrow focus on the behavioural and biological, and consider broader structural and underlying factors such as poverty, homelessness, widespread sex work, rural to urban migration, instability, a high rate of unemployment, unequal gender relations, harmful traditional practice and global injustice that have facilitated the spread of HIV/AIDS. African governments should involve the local people and civil society organisations in the fight against HIV/AIDS by using a wide range of participatory methodologies and culturally sensitive advocacy strategies. This study thus suggests that a multi-faceted approach is needed to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and address the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our world. This study relies on literature review, interviews and personal observation.

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