Bike Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS

My friends at Bike Zambia have been working for months to raise both funds and awareness for local HIV/AIDS prevention with their 300-mile cross-country bike ride from the capital of Lusaka to Victoria Falls.

I assume BB readers are well-informed on how the disease still ravages parts of sub-Saharan Africa, even if the urgency has faded in the Western press.  The numbers in Zambia are particularly shocking: one in 7 adults is HIV-positive. Life expectancy at birth is among the lowest on earth, with most reputable sources currently placing it at under 50 (and some as low as 39). Nearly half of the population is now under the age of 15. Without education and prevention, this next generation may face even greater trouble.

Bike Zambia's goal isn't just to raise cash, although that's neat. The ride has already raised awareness among Zambians themselves about condoms, testing, antivirals, and local wellness programs, done sustainably with locally sourced bikes and active local participation.  This should save lives even aside from any funds raised—and Bike Zambia has already cleared their goal of $150,000, which is probably even more than it sounds like in a country where the per capita income is about $4/day.

The riders arrived at Victoria Falls yesterday, but you can still chip in here.



    1. The sarcasm is deeply misplaced. Bike Zambia is secular, pro-science, pro-education, pro-prophylactics… you’re just wrong on the facts. The assumption behind the sarcasm is understandable, I guess, given the number of Western efforts in Africa which have turned out to be guided by evangelical or similar ideology. But five minutes of reading up on BZ will show that nothing here — not the organizers, participants, goals, nor execution — merits this.

      1. Bob, sarcasm can be a great way to deliver a message, absurdism if you will,  a norm on BB. 

        Proselytism has backfired on most of the continent of Africa and in the Caribbean, the teachings have not been fully absorbed, but combined with ancient local beliefs, like Voodoo & Syncretism, a mixture of tenets, often contradictory. (All links are reputable sources)

        1. Having sex with a virgin will take away the disease (ergo. rape a virgin)-

        2. The rampant slaughter of albinos- 

        3. And yes, word has spread in the past that condoms  cause AIDS-

        However, the SPREAD of  HIV/AIDS is a byproduct of corruption, I don’t see how a bike ride addresses corruption.

        1. Poverty is not alleviated and only exacerbated by corruption. The spread of HIV/AIDS is a product of poverty. Poverty can make you apt to look for simple accessible ‘explanations’ and ‘solutions’.

        2. This post is about Zambia. You’ve linked to an article about Kenya, an article about Swaziland and an article about South Africa.

          Africa is not a country. Srsly. Look it up.

          I don’t see how a bike ride addresses corruption.

          What exactly have you done about the problem, Palomino, other than snark at someone who’s actually doing something?

          1. My wife grew up in Zambia; for what it’s worth, she found all of those statements to be valid about that country, at least during her time there. Having sex with a white person (especially an American) was also seen as a good way to be cured of AIDS. A common claim was that Americans had brought HIV/AIDS into the country to humiliate Africans, and that condoms were part of this.

            During the 80s (until 1991), Zambia’s founding President Kenneth Kaunda denied that AIDS existed in Zambia, even when his son died of the disease. Fortunately, he was one of the first to speak out in 1989 and now Kaunda is one of the leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

            It would be interesting to look at the patterns of influence in African countries – I’m not trying to contradict your statement about the different countries making up Africa, but my impression as someone who has been to a number of southern African countries is that allegiances are structured more along tribal lines, which often cross the European-drawn borders. Governments often have less of an influence on people’s views than they would in Europe, due to having less contact with rural communities. Even in cities, traditional beliefs (while altered from older forms) are still very strong.

          2. Rode my bike from Vancouver Canada to San Fran (about 1000 miles) to raise awareness and $. Was the only caregiver in Seattle willing to take care of an AIDS patient in his home during the “big scare” in 1982.  Worked 4 years in an AIDS hospice as a Certified Nursing Aid. Handed out condoms to men cruising in our local Seattle parks. Marched. Candlelight vigils. Entered trials. Volunteered at a needle exchange. And made a quilt for my partner who died in 1988.  

            And you?

            I’m fine with listing those countries. If you read the New Yorker article, it’s called the AIDS belt, a swath of infection across the middle of the continent, which includes Zambia. Plus, there’s a few countries below  Zambia that are far much worse. Botswana is 25% to Zambia’s 14%,  and South Africa is HIGHER than Zambia, at 18%.

          3. Then you should know better than to pick apart other people’s efforts to do something in the midst of an extraordinarily hostile environment.

    2. I believe the churches in Zambia are fully behind the use of condoms in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS. There is no official policy of abstinence nor Thabo Mbeki style denialism.

    3. The anti-contraception stance might be something that the Vatican holds to, but many other Christian groups disagree, and even many Catholic workers in Africa ignore the Vatican’s stance and distribute condoms. Christian Aid, for example, has this as the first page of their “HIV is not a moral issue” booklet:  

      “It is important to follow safer practices, which can include correct and consistent condom use, abstinence and faithfulness. Yet the realities and complexities of life mean that accurate information must go hand in hand with the skills and ability to negotiate safer practices. There must be access to all prevention methods, including sterile needles for those who inject, testing of blood transfusions for HIV and prevention of transmission from mother to child.”

      The fight against HIV/AIDS is also far larger than condom use, and many groups give huge amounts of resources to support AIDS orphanages and hospices, while fighting to remove the stigma from sufferers and empower women, who are particularly vulnerable. There are definite criticisms to be made against different Christian groups, but it is important that the whole story is told, which includes some very commendable work done by some amazing people.

  1. The comments here seem to be confused, for no reason I can parse. Let’s be clear: there is no religious component to Bike Zambia. 

    BZ has gone village-to-village to raise *secular* awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention, doing so with high local involvement, locally-sourced equipment, and virtually no environmental impact, raising a large amount money for reputable local charities in the process.

    It’s strange to see anyone assume that these science-driven activities are religiously motivated—and then debate with that as a given. But hey, it’s the Internet, stuff happens.

    Several other comments seem to believe that anyone working to spread life-saving information on ground level must inevitably be unaware of a bigger picture of causes and complications.  This makes no sense at all.  Does fighting a wildfire logically mean that one has no understanding of matches, dry weather, or climate change?  No.  It just means you’re fighting today where the houses are burning.  At the very same time, other people can do good reporting, fight corruption, go to the capital and try to change policy, etc.  That one is not doing everything does not mean that one is doing nothing.

    In a country where half the population is under the age of 15, prevention education is incredibly important. Maybe there’s a better idea than staging a big participatory event that attracts attention and moves slowly through the countryside. Maybe there’s a means of communicating the mission more appropriate to the physical context, making more efficient use of the resources. But I have yet to see it presented.

    In other news, it’s not that I don’t understand sarcasm. I just expect it to be aimed with at least a slight bit of care before launch. If the assumption underlying a sarcastic remark is demonstrably and obviously false — as in the assumption that this was a religious exercise — no snark points can be scored. It’s in the Internet rules, which you can find in fine print on the sides of the tubes. If we read further down, it also says that snark and sarcasm have never saved anyone’s life. Fact-checking, however, has.

    1. To clarify, I wasn’t saying that Bike Zambia was religious (and I recognize that it isn’t), just that religious people being involved in HIV/AIDS work is not necessarily a bad thing, and that their work doesn’t necessarily come from an anti-science stance. It was a tangential point, but I thought it needed to be said in response to the first comment.

    2. Bob, I get it. But if a diamond mine map is compared to an HIV/AIDS infection rate, you will see the mines surround Zambia, and many of those countries have a higher rate of infection. Zambia itself is not “hostile”, some of the countries surrounding it are. 

      I have no problem telling you that I believe your time and effort is not being well spent, but I would never tell you your time is being wasted. 

      Based on the numbers, Zambia is fairing better than it’s neighbors. But I don’t see those successes growing outwards, I only see the higher infection rates surrounding Zambia closing in. And to me, that’s science.

  2. And maybe the last word:

    Time Stamp. 7.1.2012 8 p mt. 

    The post before this has 50 comments, the one after 58, this one at 14. So either people don’t care about HIV/AIDS or they too think this  ride doesn’t make sense. 

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