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That Africa suffers from a high mortality rate for malaria--which, unlike AIDS, already has a cure--is suggestive of shortcomings that gives one pause for thought concerning progress on the African AIDS front. Until the end of depostic and pathological regimes (with "leaders" that have squired billions of dollars to Swiss bank accounts), AIDS in Africa will continue to be a significant problem.

Benzion Chinn

What, in your opinion, is the responsibility for religious groups such as the Catholic Church in the struggle to make the use of condoms more prevalent in countries that have high infection rates for AIDS?


"One is the lower income of Africans, which means that the gain to them in terms of lost future income from taking actions to reduce their exposure to the AIDS virus is smaller than it would be in a richer country like the United States."

Does anyone else here think that this statement of Posner represents reality?


sorry.. That's Becker's... I looked at the posted by


I'd have to say yes and no. No in the sense that Africans probably don't sit down and think, "well, the present value of my future utility is X, which is so low that I'll go have unprotected sex with a prostitute and contract AIDS with a probability P." However, I do think that people who think they have little or nothing to lose engage in riskier behavior than those with something. So yeah, I think on some level, having less to look forward and less to lose definitely affects the risks you take and the precautions you don't. By analogy, think of two high school students, one of whom is very likely to go to college on scholarship, while another will, if he graduates at all, take a factory job upon graduation. Obviously the former is less likely to engage in crime, underage drinking, etc, so as not to risk losing his future. The latter doesn't have much to lose [perhaps he doesn't get the factory job, but he can still work at Walmart], so he might engage in such behaviors.


Haris, thanks, and while I'd buy a part of your explanation I'm still a bit disgusted with an academic advancing the "life is cheap" in poor countries mythology. I spent a year in Korea when income was $350/year and that bought barely rice for most. The manner in which they clung to life and raising their families under extreme duress was, well, humbling to this lower middle class kid.

The risks they "willingly took" were pushed by extreme poverty ie. working in unsafe factories and building modern high rise buildings working barefoot on bamboo "scaffolding" or driving cabs in miserable traffic 16 hours a day.

I guess the part I'd buy is that when life is that brutal a bit of pleasure stands out more, regardless of risk. I've seen that effect in "rich" Alaskan pipeliners or fishermen who had a lot of money but tried to cram too much "living" into their very short breaks.

Your college/non-college example seems more a result of dysfunctional families where the planning and delayed gratification taken for granted in middle class just doesn't exist. I don't know much about African culture but imagine the grinding poverty and hopelessness creates a lot of what we'd call dysfunctional families and a sense of fatalism.

The South Koreans, I think, achieved their economic miracle because neither Japanese occupation nor having their country divided and flattened destroyed their earlier culture and discipline.

I'd agree with Randall and others here that even w/o the scourge of AIDS Africa would be a tough problem to solve.


Circumcision is clearly not the solution to AIDS in Africa--it is barbaric and costly. Historically it had been used (by the Victorians) as a procedure to control male sexual behavior of all sorts: masturbation, bed wetting, syphilis. Still, it is surprising to me that it comes up as a solution to problems of health care sexual education. There are many books on the subject, one most recently published by the U of Chicago Press by Robert Darby titled "A Surgical Temptation."

Give a man a condom and show him how to use is. Don't cut off his foreskin.

Clearly, from an economic perspective, if the funds used to circumcise African men (roughly $200 per person) were reallocated toward an education campaign for both men and women, the African AIDS epidemic would be reduced significantly.


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