South African President Zuma is a Polygamist

And here I thought this man was so modern (by South African standards) when all I knew about him was that he was the first South African president to acknowledge HIV.

But Zuma is not, as I would have imagined, the darling of HIV/AIDS activists: that community has been criticizing his polygamist lifestyle as a bad example in a country that has some of the highest rates of HIV in the world.

The argument being, I suppose, that polygamy officially sanctions a (one-sided) multiple-partner lifestyle.  If one wife turned out to be HIV positive, she would infect all.

The validity of that argument aside, call me a zenophobe, but there’s still just the simple weird factor of polygamy.

The South African president in fact has 3 first ladies; he married the 3rd today.  Zuma would have had 5 wives, but he divorced one (one of his cabinet members) in 1998, and another killed herself after bearing 5 of his children.

Zuma has a total of 19 children, by current and former wives, and with women to whom he has never married.   Zuma is currently engaged to at least one other woman.

Check it out yourself, via the Times Online >>


Some Women Think It’s OK for Their Partner to Hit Them

Global Health Magazine Reports:
In a survey conducted from 2001 – 2007 on women’s attitudes toward domestic violence, UNICEF asked women and girls aged 15 – 49 if it was OK for a husband or partner to hit or beat their wife “in certain circumstances.”

The standouts:

  • 90% of women in Jordan said Yes.
  • 81.2% in Lao PDR said Yes.
  • 81% in Ethiopia said Yes.


Click Global Health Magazine link for larger image view


Side note:  Global Health Magazine’s Summer issue focuses on infectious disease.  I admit I haven’t read it yet, but it’s all available online; so looks like great weekend reading to me.  Global Health Magazine is a publication of Global Health Council (the people who do that really cool annual global health conference).

Disney Explains Malaria

I found this WWII-era video via Tylepard on Twitter last week. Worth a watch, it’s a great tutorial on malaria, and how it’s spread, complete with the 7 Dwarves (using bednets!). Enjoy.

L’Desh Fresh

“This is the world’s water.” Gross.

Hat Tip to the Skoll Foundation for pointing me to this video in a July entry.

Abuse Is NOT Okay

I’ve been really disappointed with the public’s reaction to Chris Brown’s (is it still alleged?) abuse of Rhianna.

None of the radio jockeys that I heard on my morning commute were quick to criticize Brown – even with a caveat that the abuse had not yet been proven.  The same DJ’s took calls from people who claimed the abuse was Rhianna’s fault; if she hit him first, they argued, she got what she deserved.

I’m so happy to hear that the tide is *finally* turning.

Running late for work this morning, I caught 95.5 WPGC’s Real Talk with TC.  TC told the women listening what many of us already know:

-Abuse can happen to any American woman, at any time:

  • 5.3 million women are abused each year (that’s 1 in every 100 American women)
  • 1232 are killed each year by an intimate partner
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women

-There are signs of an abusive partner (so look out, and get out if your partner may be a threat to you)

– And finally, there’s help out there if you need it.  Most hotlines and other helplines are free and confidential.

WebMD has some tips on how to tell if someone you know – who hasn’t said so – is dealing with abuse.  WebMD says you should encourage that person to talk to a health professional.  I’d also say that being supportive and loving – not demanding or hurtful (ie, ‘how could you be so stupid? what are you still doing there?’) – is helpful, as well.

Better to Deliver in Indonesia?

I used to think it has something to do with War-time.  Or maybe it’s just the transient nature of the population in DC (if you followed someone here for their career, you might have more time on your hands).  Either way, I’ve noticed that everyone and their mother is pregnant in DC.  [No, I don’t have any stats on this.  It’s a qualitative observation.  Just go with it.]

Anyway, I came across this video [scroll to “A Good Resource”] from the Manoff Group and JSI that outlines delivery procedures for Indonesian midwives.  Only having Hollywood to go on, I was surprised at some of what the video stressed.
– Don’t move the baby off the Mom’s belly (for any reason) for at least one hour after the birth
– Don’t bathe the baby until at least 6 hours after the birth
– Don’t suction the nose and mouth of the baby

The arrogant American in me felt sure that American hospitals were governed by (at least!) the same safety and health tenets as Indonesian midwives.  Why would Hollywood have perpetrated such lies?

I was wrong.  According to Lisa Rodriguez RN and Marjorie Greenfield MD on, American hospitals *do* do the things that the video warns against.

I have to be honest, after seeing the video, and hearing the explanations for the tenets above, I’m confused why American delivery procedures would be any different.

I’ll be emailing all the doctors I know (or know of) to get the answers.  Sit tight.

Elizabeth Pisani Weighs In

Below is a portion of Elizabeth Pisani‘s response to an email I sent her last week, alerting her that I had linked to her blog, and asking her to weigh-in on any possible link between DC and Uganda’s HIV/AIDS rates.  I’m going to (selfishly) roll out her response over the next few days (as I do a bit more research about female condoms).  In the mean time, here’s a bit of her very thoughtful response:

I think the real problem here is that we’ve all bought into the idea that it
must fall to women to find ways of protecting themselves or their partners
from HIV transmission. In other parts of the world, where we have not simply decided that men are pigs and can’t be worked with, up to 80 or 90 percent of clients happily use condoms when they are buying sex. Have we really all decided that African men can’t be persuaded to do the same? More here if you’re interested.

Elizabeth’s statement above particularly reminded me of something I had read on Malaria Matters, and then on Ghana News:  In an effort to fight pediatric malaria incidence, city officials in Sunyani, Ghana have “call[ed] on mothers to continue to use insecticide treated bednets for their children.”

What about Dads in Sunyani?  Bill Brieger’s original point, in his post on Malaria Matters, was that it takes an entire community to sustain health interventions.  Why does the Ghana News automatically discount the fathers in their community from helping to safeguard the health of their own children?

I’m not familiar with cultural gender relations in any African country, let alone Ghana.  And one could argue that American men aren’t always held as accountable for health outcomes as women are (good girls in the US keep their legs closed, or at the very least, take the pill – alone).  Still, the Sunyani city officials seem to expect much less of the men in their community, as concerns the health of the community.

Assuming that Sunyani men are not held accountable for the health of their families and communities the way Sunyani women are, one has to wonder how much healthier these families and communities would be if staying healthy (using condoms and bed nets, for instance) were truly an all-hands-on-deck effort.

Put another way:  might a bit more gender equality save a few more lives in Ghana?