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[afro-nets] A.B.C.: We Need A New Love Literacy?

  • From: Terry-Ann Selikow <Terry-Ann@telkomsa.net>
  • Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2005 08:05:33 -0600

A.B.C.: We Need A New Love Literacy?


While all "scientific evidence" points to the fact that total
abstinence is the only certain way to prevent the sexual trans-
mission of HIV, abstinence is not always possible and/or desir-
able for youth (I am not entering into moral debates here). The
two other strategies that are promoted as a way of lessening the
chances of HIV infection are the consistent use of latex condoms
and monogamous relationships. However, the "ABC" and more re-
cently the addition of "D and E" approach to HIV/AIDS can be
viewed as a simplistic approach to a multifaceted problem. It is
well established that high risk sexual practices occur within
complex material, cultural and social structures.

To name just a few factors that undermine the "policy of ABC":
- myths and misunderstandings about HIV / AIDS;
- (perceived) biological needs;
- the hegemonic construction of masculinity that is based on
multiple sexual partners;
- the symbolic construction of condoms;
- the fact that sex is often a symbolic and material resource;
- the exchange of sex for favours and rewards; and
- violence (both overt and covert) against women.

Factors that increase the risk of HIV infection are multi-
causal; hence prevention efforts should address a broad range of
factors and should operate on many levels. One size does not fit
all and as HIV is more than a mechanistic problem, it requires
more than a mechanistic approach. Towards this end, I am working
on a concept of "love literacy" to replace the simplistic A,B,C
type approach.

The concept of love literacy draws on Freire's definition of
literacy whereby all social practices are understood as existing
in relation to other social practices rather than existing in
the abstract or existing in a vacuum. Moreover, in a Freirean
approach, action is united with critical reflection and the idea
that, although structures constrain actions, individuals can
transform their world, is promoted.

In sum, a love literacy approach replaces the A.B.C. with "the
whole alphabet; and more."

For example
* "T": issues of "TRUST?"

* "M": challenging "MYTHS" (partly socially constructed nature
of sexuality; women are also sexual beings).

* "P": "POWER." (institutionalized and day to day practices)

* "G": the "GENDERED" nature of the epidemic (micro and macro).

* "E": "EDUCATIONAL" opportunities and improved access to the
"ECONOMY." (External environment)

* "N": "NEW" forms of masculinities / femininities and healthier

* "S": the semantics of sexuality: how language partly shapes

* "C": constraints that women face when making sexual choices.

* "W" is for an integrated and "WHOLISTIC" approach (a combina-
tion of tailored prevention approaches).

In light of the above, interventions based on rote learning the
A.B.C. need to be replaced with problem-solving based pedagogies
that are focused on equipping people with critical thinking
skills and problem solving abilities that are required to ana-
lyse situations and to apply knowledge in real life situations.

A love literacy approach locates HIV/AIDS within general knowl-
edge about sexuality, reproduction, contraception and also ad-
dress gender roles and relationships. Such an approach recog-
nises that different communities need to have specific HIV/AIDS
packages which are based on their own unique circumstances and
HIV/AIDS prevention packages need to respond to lived material
and cultural day to day realities. As such a broader concept
than A.B.C. is required.

I would like to hear from those who believe that the ABC is too
blunt an instrument and who feel that the idea of love literacy
is worth pursuing.

Terry-Ann Selikow
Adolescent Health Research Institute
c/o Department of Psychiatry
University of Cape Town
E36A Groote Schuur Hospital
Observatory 7925, South Africa
Mobile: +27-76-303 8376