Globalisation, westernisation, conspiracy theory and their by fvd11557

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									How far has the conspiracy theory affected the perception and responses to
HIV risk? Some counter-productive practices among young people in
Cameroon

Lucas TCHETGNIA, CEPED/ University of Paris V
Lucas.Tchetgnia@paris5.sorbonne.fr

INTRODUCTION:
The HIV prevalence rate in the general population in Cameroon is 5.5% (DHS, 2004). Among
young people aged 15-24 this rate accounts for 3. 2% of whom 4, 8% of women and 1.4% of
men.
From the young people’s life-style in Douala, Cameroon, I noticed that, they were highly
exposed to the AIDS pandemics. Such an exposure has to do particularly with, among others,
having more than one sexual partner; not using at all preventive methods, or not using them
on a regular basis; ignoring one’s serologic status and that of the partner. Such risky practices
rely on several types of logics, which are mutually inclusive: logics of cultural context, logics
of interactions, and economic logics.
  Logics of cultural context, for the case in point, are twofold: on the one hand, we are
dealing here with a culture characterized by inherited collective representations, beliefs,
inherited symbols; on the other hand, stand “rational” representations regarding safety
measures. The latter also includes common knowledge, information received in schools,
information from the media, just to name a few.
   Logics of interactions refer to all that involves the act of love, the preparation and the
realization of the sexual intercourse per se. This actually entails the development of sexual
intercourse and all the required conditions to be fulfilled for it to be effective.
   The economic logics have to do with the spread of AIDS among youths, as a consequence
of misery or poverty, and actions been taken to solve the problem. The purpose here is to
show how a given context of deprivation can be a suitable terrain for the development of
   The issue of conspiracy theory didn’t occur in Cameroon with HIV. Before its arrival, there
were talks about certain types of disease like onchocerciasis (blindness caused by a microbe
present in dirty water). In the Sévérin Cécile Abéga’s novel Les Bimanes, a lady in a southern
village in Cameroon linked the high prevalence of onchocerciasis to Western conspiracy.
Mistrust in the Cameroonian context can be traced up to the late 1980s when a widespread
rumour was going on poliomyelitis vaccines causing infertility to young people. Parents were
reluctant to make their offspring vaccinated. (ANRS, 1992).
After the lake Nyos disaster which happened in Cameroun in 1986 during which a toxic gas
came from the lake and killed almost every human being and animals in that village. Somme
people then had a strong belief in the fact that, a bomb had been put in the lake to kill people,
others thought that it was a new western weapon experimented in African before its
production.
With the HIV, there were many gossips about the fact that HIV was either a bacteriological
weapon sent to kill Africans, or the results of hazardous manipulation in the American
laboratories. The idea of conspiracy became salient with the widespread rumour about the
arrival of two containers of infected condoms at the Douala harbour in 2004. People
interviewed mentioned that Cameroonian authorities didn’t let those alleged infected condoms
in the country. If the idea of conspiracy has always been present in Cameroon like in many
countries in the world, it is important to mention that the media, which inform Cameroonians
about HIV conspiracy views in North America and South Africa, has reinforced it.



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1. The North American role in the spread of the Conspiracy theory
If some North Americans (USA and Canada) scholars and researchers spread the ideas of
conspiracy theory in the world, especially in the contexts where population were responsive,
like Africa, it is important to mention that even before the reception of this information, HIV
and other types of disease in Africa have sometimes been linked to a certain form of western
conspiracy. The long and complex history of medicine in the USA and the accusation of
racism and abuse on Black slaves by physicians and surgeons created a context of friction
between medical practitioner and African Americans.(Washington, 2006). Africans and
African Americans have in common skin colour, which has been a central issue in the relation
to conspiracy. Didier Fassin (2004, 2006) analysed the complex interrelation between the
history of racial segregation in South Africa and Blacks wariness of the Health system, and
their perception of the high HIV prevalence rate among them in terms of the conspiracy from
their white fellows. In Cameroon like in Africa in general, there has been a certain type of
identification to these people who almost have the same skin colour (African Americans,
Black South Africans both living in a context where Black and Whites live together and
where the latter were perceived as having a dominant position). In addition to this
prerequisite, Cameroonian’s complex relation to the West has also made the construction of
HIV in terms of conspiracy possible.


I- CONSPIRACY THEORY: A MATTER OF CAMEROONIANS’ COMPLEX
RELATION TO THE WEST.

The complex relation to the West creates among these youths a relation of great fascination
(modern lifestyle with its positive effects like high quality of life, leisure, the power of
technology, progress in medicine, increase in life expectancy, success, the myth of western
Eldorado), mistrust (setback of modernisation in terms of pollution, perception of sexual
mores and sexual practices perceived as deviant, perception of racism, proven or not) of what
comes from the West which partly induces the denial to protection.
- It also leads to victimization trough a process of selective past and current information that
would partly explain the state of lethargy in which Africa is nowadays
- It reinforces the notion of otherness of risk through the construction of the risk as being a far
away fact. AIDS is therefore much more perceived as the disease of people who can be placed
into categories that are said to be at risk. This concerns people whose looseness sexual mores
do not suit the established standards. The westerners who are perceived as the promoters of
this looseness of sexual mores would be the most exposed to HIV risk. Even though HIV
statistics go against this presupposition, this contradiction makes sense and finds an
explanation in the strong belief in conspiracy theory against Africans.
- The strong and complex relation to the West in a context sandwiched between tradition and
modernity places individuals in a state of global tension. They are torn between contradictory
models due to various influences. They are roughly under the influence of five discourses:
biomedical discourse, religious discourse, traditional medicine discourse, traditionalist
opinion leader’s discourse, dissident discourse on topics related to the sale of condoms, the
origins of HIV, and research on efficient therapy and vaccine.
    In the era of globalization, rumour on conspiracy is widespread and information is got
from the Internet and some opinion leaders with the dissident discourse on HIV.




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 According to René Bureau (2002, p. 11), the arrival of the Whites in Africa raised a central
question: Where does their power come from?
The conspiracy theory questions the power of the West in the mastering of technology and
medicine…Those accused of conspiracy are those who are able to create a weapon
(bacteriological or not) that would harm those who can’t control anything because of their
lack of competence in these domains.

II- METHOD
This paper is a part of my PhD dissertation project on the logics of protection/low protection
of Cameroonian youths in the face of HIV.
In-depth interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted among young
people aged 15-24 both from urban and rural areas. These involved both sexes. 36 FGDs, with
18 undertaken in the rural area (Fondjomekwet) and 18 in the urban area (Douala) in summer
2004 and 2006.
There was a need to organize 6 FGDs in mixed groups of males and females and 6 by each
sex group. Each FGD session consisted of six to eight participants. Since former studies
enabled us to see that communication was not free among people from very different age
groups. Taking into account the shame or annoyance of younger adolescents between 15 and
19 when discussing about sexual issues with youth from 19-24, we found it necessary to
organize sessions according to age groups. This enabled youths from the same age group to
discuss freely and openly, without having to be ashamed. Participants were met on the streets,
in school, at stadiums, in the markets, in youth’s association and at home.
In-depth interviews were undertaken with people who had participated in the focus groups.
Questions focused on:
Decision-making for protection,
Intensity of love feeling
Marriage
Attitudes towards condoms and the use of condoms
Behaviour and practices in sexual intercourse particularly the number and types of partners.
Attitudes and practice vis-à-vis HIV test.
Practices that aim at reducing the risk of transmission
Factors encouraging or discouraging protection
The type of locus of control 1 and attitudes towards illness
Perception of existing therapies (traditional, religious, medical)
Beliefs, customs and systems of values
Attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS
Projection into the future
Attitudes towards death and life
Relationship between sexes
Fidelity/infidelity
The extent of implication in the relationship with the partner
Perceived preventive and management measures for STIs/AIDS.
The perception of policies being implemented…



1
  The locus of Control is a 13 item questionnaire developed by Julian ROTTER in 1966. It measures generalized
expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. According to ROTTER, people with an
internal locus of control believe that their own actions determine the rewards they deserve, while those with an
external locus of control believe that their behaviour doesn’t matter much and that rewards in life are generally
out of their control.


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Interviews were taped and transcribed verbatim and analyzed thanks to the method of content
analysis by themes.


III- Questioning the external locus of control: it’s not our fault, the West is
responsible
A- Explaining the origins of HIV

1. A matter of sexual deviance
a. Return of the stigma and construction of the western HIV
At the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the African origin of HIV was often mentioned
in the West. Furthermore African culture and African sexual promiscuity were often cited as
the cause for the proliferation of the disease (Sabatier, 1989; Gausset, 2001; Fassin, 2006).
This made African angry and forced them to answer back, accusing Westerners of being
sexually perverse and deviant and accusing this sexual deviance as being the cause of the
disease.

b. Looking for a scapegoat: foreigners and the others
There are so many things in that search for the scapegoat. AIDS is being presented as a
disease that comes from the West, it is given many names: white wolf, perverse illness, AIDS
was conjured into the acronyms American Ideas to Discourage Sex, just to name a few.

2. A matter of conspiracy (HIV as a disease created to sell condoms, kill Africans for
many reasons: the high birth rate in Africa, racism and the meanness of Westerners)

a. The role of History and Memory reactivation
Some young Cameroonians question why Africa is in such a state of deprivation. It is the part
of the world that combines a lot of liabilities. It is the continent of scarcity in many domains.
And as if that was not sufficient enough, AIDS comes as a coup de grace to this part of the
world where people are not even able to feed accurately and to cure the most endemic
diseases like malaria and typhoid. Francky, one of the respondents asks himself “why all these
serious illnesses are mostly contracted by people in Africa though they start in the West and
reach Africa at a twinkle of an eye, then spread in the whole continent”
   This type of questioning by Francky can be heard from many people out there in Africa
who seek to understand why Africa is suffering from so many plights. They sometimes fetch
information from continuum of past events (Black slavery, colonization, racial segregation
during the Apartheid policy in South Africa, racism in some western countries,
neocolinization, maintaining dictatorship in African countries) as well as in current events
(suppressive migratory policies, pitiful state of Africa stricken by many evils: famine, wars,
epidemics, unemployment…) to find an attempt of explanation. These young people find it
difficult to detach themselves from a past which they didn’t even live.
This past memory is reactivated when they have to explain their inability to success in various
aspects of life. The aim here is to explain why the West doesn’t like Africa, why the West has
no advantage to Africa prosperity. In this process of victimization, there is a high tendency of
releasing from individual responsibility, which enables rationalization 2 and justification of
casual sex.
As far as racism is concerned, it is important to mention that even if it is an argument
minority people use very easily to justify so numerous and confusing things, it is nevertheless

2
    Fact of producing a discourse of rational justification of behaviour perceived as irrational or contestable.


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sometimes proven. And history delivers from time to time, some details. When these hidden
information is revealed by the civil society or the media, they spread like wildfire and are
quickly analysed, reconstrued by these populations who sometimes have a strong belief in the
fact that the Whites don’t like them.
   In Cameroon, one has witnessed a process of top down or that of two-step flow of
communication by Paul Lazarsfeld. In fact, the information on the use of Africans as guinea
pigs flowed from the students and some elites to reach the other categories.

B. The widespread thesis of business and conspiracy against Africa

1. Condoms as a bacteriological and ideological weapon.

HIV has sometimes suffered from the image of a disease invented or created on purpose to
kill poor people.
    Also, Condoms have suffered from some fantastic rumours among which, that of being
infected with HIV. This conspiracy discourse negatively influences the use of condoms. The
idea of conspiracy found its sources through the rumour that two containers full of infected
condoms arrived at the Douala seaport in 2004. These condoms from the west would be
brought there to infect Cameroonians and to kill them.
      According to the idea behind the rumours, Westerners would like to kill Africans for
  many reasons:
- The Africans high birth rate would be a threat for the White population; this would be the
rationale behind Family planning programmes in African countries whereas paradoxically,
there is an incitation to encourage birth in the West with allowances given to parents to help
them bring their children up. By the way, Genet Tadele (2005, p. 103.) mentioned that: “The
issue of controlling population growth in developing countries was partly initiated by Western
and international donors as a potentially viable strategy to reduce poverty, but I am not sure
whether young people were aware of the story of population control when they expressed
their conspiracy views”
Eloi : They started with family planning. They said It’s a system implemented for reducing poverty.
White people don’t want us to make a lot of children. They say we are poor, etc. As we haven’t
understood, they created HIV and armed conflicts between countries so that those who are killed
contribute to the reduction of the population growth among Africans. The same thing with the
invention of condoms. Since condom was made, it has contributed a lot to reduce birth in Africa
 - Racism and the meanness of westerners towards Africans
-The ongoing enrichment of the West and the impoverishment of Africans through condoms
sale.
Peter, 24-year-old man I interviewed in the rural area gave me an amazing explanation why
the prevalence of HIV is on the increase in Africa and why this is done to impoverished
Africans. His justifications have to do with the wickedness and the meanness of Westerners:
“When White people create a disease like Aids, they pretend trying to find some things that
would enable people to protect themselves against the disease. They make condoms. And
inside condoms, do you know what they put? Some harmful substances that will cause other
types of disease. After, they make some medicines to alleviate the pains of people who are
HIV positive. What people don’t know is that in these drugs, they put harmful substances that
will have some effects maybe in 10 or 15 years. Those White people then send their children
in the universities to be specialised in the illnesses that will appear in 10 or 15 years, so that



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they are always the first to find the virus and to find the cure for it. This is how they exploit
poor people.”
   In the discourse of these youths, I have the impression that many of them are well-informed
about the initial (former) rationale behind family planning policy and are not that convinced
of the conspirationist theory behind family planning. These rumours they tell and which they
end up believing in by dint of telling are used anyhow. Some young people then criticize what
they call “birth limitation policy”, “one black child per family policy”, “forced sterilization of
Africans”.
  People who have a strong belief in conspiracy theory are those who mentioned that they
don’t trust cheap or free of charge condoms.
  In September 2007, Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed on BBC that
“Condoms are not sure because there are two countries in Europe; they are making condoms
with the virus on purpose,"
"They want to finish with the African people. This is the programme. They want to colonise
until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century's time." Aids activists in
the country have been shocked by the archbishop's comments.
  In his study in Ethiopia, Genet Tadele find this belief in infected condoms among some
youths for whom the lubricant in condoms would be infected with HIV as we can notice in
this excerpt from in interview with an 18 male student:
“ If you buy condom in America you have to pay a good sum of money, but here we only pay 25 cents
or even get it free. How has this happened? And why are the other condoms like Durex so expensive?
All these things make me doubt the Hiwot Trust (one of condom brands widely available in the
country). I am now starting to believe the talk that HIV virus is found on the lubricant of the condom. I
have also read in Menilik [local magazine] that a certain doctor has revealed the fact that HIV was
created in American laboratories. So when I hear all this, I sometimes come very close to believing
this is really a conspiracy by our enemies (the Americans). (Tadele, 2005, p.113)
Conspiracy theories are common in Africa and those in the Diaspora..
According to Genet Tadele (2005, p. 103) ”
“ The conspiracy discourse about the origin of HIV/AIDS seems widely shared, not only by
Ethiopians in the Diaspora. An Ethiopian couple who gave me a lift in Amsterdam in 2002 asked, after
I told them about my research, how and where HIV/AIDS came from. Without giving me time to
explain, the husband said that HIV was created by Westerners to wipe out black people. “ They knew
that we black people wouldn’t take care, and created HIV to finish us. Otherwise, they[Westerners]
could have created a cure for it. They are even creating life [in test tubes] , and a cure for HIV would
have cost them a jiffy”

2. Condoms as a business tool

Condoms are being suspected of enriching its producers. According to a study undertaken
among students at the University of Douala, there is a profit rationale behind the promotion of
condoms.
 “They felt the propaganda to use condoms was driven by a huge commercial profit-making
incentive and not so much by a concern or strategy to fight against HIV/AIDS as was often
claimed. This, they insisted, was the reason for widespread adverts on condom usage all over
the place, most of which carried no reference to HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS was simply used as an
excuse to escalate the sales of condoms. According to these students, a cure of HIV/AIDS
would therefore have a devastating effect on condom sales and may well be the reason for



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the foot-dragging in the funding of scientific research towards having a vaccine or a cure.”
(Njikam Savage, 2005, p.58.)

C- A GLOBAL CONSPIRACY IN A GLOBAL WORLD

1. The reconstruction of bird flu and atypical pneumonia under the conspiracy theory
Bird flu is perceived in Cameroon by some youths as a disease caused artificially by the West
to infect chickens in Africa, thereby, forcing Africans to import their chicken from Europe
and therefore, make them more economically dependant to the West. One of the peer
educators I interviewed told me that Bird flu is a conspiracy to retard the economic growth of
Bamileke, one of the most important ethnic groups renown for its economic skill.
   On the other hand, the atypical pneumonia that affected people in China for a while was
perceived as a disease created by Westerners to kill Chinese people who are becoming more
and more gifted, challenging them in many domains. According to people who have a strong
belief in this thesis, Chinese people have successfully found a cure for the disease since they
are cleverer than Africans. This kind of rationale finds its justification in the international
relations where Chinese are more and more present. Populations perceive their presence in
Africa and facilities they are building there as a mark of Chinese power.


2. Foot-dragging and wavering around therapies
Rumours stipulate about a big lie on the so-called research for an efficient therapy. This
imposture is said to be organized to trick the entire world, making people believe that there
would be an active research to find a therapy or vaccine. The West would have no interest to
find the therapy because of the implications this would have on condom sales. There are talks
about the fact that the West have already found a therapy but has refused to commercialize it.
    According to Virginie “ It seems as the Whites have found the medicine there in the West,
but are not willing to share it. I have always said that the White doesn’t like the Black. When
a Black man is suffering from Aids here, he is cured when he goes to Europe whereas when
you are Aids patients here in Cameroun, you die”
    Also, respondents mentioned that since the West is reluctant to share the efficient therapy
with the rest of the world, especially with the have nots, some other people have been
successful to find an efficient therapy. There are talks about famous Chinese doctors who
found the cure for Aids. However, these Chinese are either said to have been called charlatan
or have been killed by the West. This as respondents mentioned is because the West wants to
be the only discoverer and owner of the therapy. According to these respondents, westerners
are the only one to fix the rules and regulations under which a reliable trial protocol is carried
out. They would not hesitate to invalidate and to cancel any researcher from the physician
board. Whenever the person who finds the vaccine or therapy is not White, he is either killed
or disqualified by the scientific establishment that is highly made up of Whites.
    The case of Pr Anomah Nguh suits that case according to them. This Cameroonian
physician (former Minister of Health and student of Alexander Fleming) gave a press
conference on his therapeutic vaccine against AIDS (VANHIVAX) on December 16, 2003.
As its name indicates it does not prevents from HIV. It is made from the Patient’s cell and
would cure either a seropositive person who has not reached the phase of AIDS or AIDS
patients who fell ill very recently. Many Cameroonians who received information about this
finding as a bonanza celebrated the victory of this Cameroonian who was so clever to make it.
This was perceived as a challenge to the international scientific establishment that would be
used to favouring research from western laboratories. However, the silence and then after the
criticisms of local as well as international scientific and political establishment were


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perceived as the proof of this western domination. This type of discourses should be
understood as an “insertion in a local or continental rationale where racial issue is central”
(Fassin, 2006, p. 111.)
Therapeutics trials undertaken by Africans and invalidated by the scientific establishment are
perceived as the denial to recognize the merits of Africans and are being considered as a mark
of racism.
“Concerning medicines invented and promoted in Africa, there is but a particular dimension:
the announced discoveries appear to be revenges of the colonial and post-colonial histories; in
the same way, reservations had by the official science are denounced as deriving from racists
intentions” (Fassin, 2006, p. 93.)

3. Conspiracy theory on HIV entered the fray during last the US Democratic primaries
votes.
The media are a strong means of broadcsating conspiracy thesis. The last case in the news
which spread all over the world and was received in Africa with a special attention is that of
Jeremiah Wright, former pastor and friend of the candidate for the democrat nomination
Barack Obama. In fact, Jeremiah Wright declared in March 2008 that HIV was created
knowingly to kill African Americans. These controversial statements that did much harm to
Barack Obama’s campaign were transmitted in a continuous loop on channels like ABC, CBS
and CNN before being relayed to Africa by the Internet and CNN World.
The US primaries interested people in Africa where Barack Obama is highly appreciated and
supported.
Jeremiah Wright’s statements on HIV conspiracy theory came at a very bad moment.
At that point in time when these young Cameroonians who admire Barack Obama a lot were
actively searching information on both their candidate and the USA, Jeremiah Wright’s
declarations on HIV conspiracy made waves. This would be perceived by some youths like
another confirmation of the hidden truth of what they pretend to know about this so-called
conspiracy theory on HIV.
Barack Obama distanced himself from these controversial statements, saying they were
offensive and irresponsible. However, the Senator of Illinois remained silent on the
conspiracy theory against African Americans. Maybe he was afraid of reopening controversy
and loses one part of his black voters who have a strong belief in conspiracy?
 Maybe he didn’t assess the harmful effects regarding prevention such statements can be for
Black people in general and the African youths in particular.

II- RUMOUR VERSUS FACTS

A- The devastating power of rumour:. « There is no fire without smoke »
The impression that some information is being hidden pushes people to respond to events or
situations that have had an emotional impact upon them. They try to make sense of these
events in many ways spiritually, morally, politically, and scientifically….
    According to Edgar Morin (1969, pp. 66-67) there are three types of incredulity.
- Incredulity that is based on personal relation with people incriminated. This is the immediate
refusal of the myth. This concerns people who rely on a scientific reasoning to refute the
myth. It is the case of Nathalie, 22 year-old form four students. “HIV lives in an accurate
liquid only. It is unacceptable to believe to such a stupid thing. I think that it is a rumour that
has been spread by somebody or a group of people, aiming at discouraging young people to
use condoms”
- Cautiousness with verification. In this case, the person has a doubt which gives rise to a
process of verification.


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- The critic analysis of the intrinsic quality of the myth.
The problem with those rumors in Cameroon resides in the absence of ongoing efficient
sensitizing campaigns to destroy the myths


B-. Conspiracy theory sometimes comes from social facts.

The HIV drugs trials (Tenofovir) 3 , which were stopped in Douala in January 2005 because of
malpractice and the non respects of informed consent protocol made a bad publicity in the
fight against AIDS and reinforced some people in their ideas that the “have nots” constitute
easy preys for rich people.
The Tenofovir scandal consisted of testing of the antiretroviral drug for sex workers in
Cambodia, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. In Cameoon, the trial involved 400 commercial
workers. Suddenly, there were fearful murmurings of unethical goings-on with the trial in
Douala. There was talk of consent forms in English for french-speaking participants.
Furtheremore some said they were told that they were all getting a sure prevention against
HIV; no medical care being offered for those who became HIV positive during the trial.
Under the pressure of ACT-UP Paris and Cameroonian civil society, the Ministry of Public
Health suspended the study because of dysfunctions.
In Cameroon, people analysed this event under the conspiracy framework.
As Didier Fassin pointed out, “Conspiracy is becoming a global phenomenon, binding the
Western world to the capitalist economy: pharmaceutical firms are suspected of wanting both
to test their drugs on African patients and to get rich to the detriment of their States, with the
benediction of rich countries” Fassin, 2006:126.
   In the past, some malpractices in the medical domain have reinforced the idea of conspiracy
against black people. One can name the Tuskegee Syphilis Study on African Americans
conducted between 1932 and 1972, 4 the trial of Dr Wouter Bassoun nicknamed Dr death who
was judged in South Africa in 1998 because of his alleged implication in the HIV infection of
Black patients 5 , or the scandal of the Tenofovir trial in Cameroon in 2005. People have seen
the thrilling movie The Constant gardener in which illegal trials of new drugs are being
undergone on children and babies 6 . Some information received here and there contribute
sowing (the seeds of) doubt in someone's mind and create a general context of mistrust.


III- SOME IMPLICATIONS:
A- A general contest of mistrust
The strength of the conspiracy theory has created in Cameroon an atmosphere whereby
everybody and everything is suspected. There is fear: of the partner who lacks seriousness, of
the girl who is unreliable and money-guided, of the girl who requires condoms, of the boy
who is reluctant to use them, of the hospital through the staff who might be infected and try in
turn to infect their patients. But above all these, there is a big fear of the Western world, of the
free-of-charge or cheap condoms, of the government who might be corrupted by the West, of
the Western world that might be supplying besides infected condoms, other dangerous
3
  The trials consisted of 400 Cameroonian prostitutes; some were infected during the trial because of many
problems like that of the language used for information. In fact, the informative documents were written in
English and address to French speaking people.
4
   This study took place in Tuskegee in Alabama. 399 poor and mostly illiterate were studied to observe the
natural progression of the disease if left untreated
5
  He was exonerated by the judges in 2002 by what Some people called a biased judgement.
6
  This movie was inspired by the novel of John Le Carré which tells the story about an illegal medical trial
(trovafloxacine) that took place in Nigeria in 1996, killing many children and babies.


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products and diseases as well This includes suspicion about the quality of free condoms and
the motives of western anti-HIV aid. Specifically, some young people believe that free or
cheap condoms supplied by the West are infected with the HIV virus, and that AIDS is a kind
of bacteriological weapon used by the West to kill Africans.

B- Some counter-productive practices
The well-informed individual, constantly seeking sense, does not run out of ideas and
inventions. For sure, needs generating invention, to use Esther Bosserup’s idea “Necessity is
the mother of invention” youths do think. They think more about it because they receive
information that is not fully satisfactory. Reliance on the medical scientific world has
decreased; there is always the strong feeling that, some pieces of information are being
hidden. In order not to get caught in the trap, in order to anticipate or avoid risks, young
people do create, they do invent.
   In this quest for safety, these youths come out with counter-productive results at the end of
the day. This has to do with individuals having lost control on their own inventions, the
objectives being so contradictory.
This explains why young men resolve to put on two condoms at once (slipping one on
another), a method they consider to be safer. Having lost all confidence in the condom, easily
broken according to them, they intend, in so doing, to stand as much as possible on the safer
side. Some others simply step away from using condoms, which they consider to be infected
by the AIDS virus. Thus, the risk is perceived to be higher when sex is carried out with
condoms, than when it is carried out without especially when the partner looks healthy.
These young people receive information from various channels. As social agents, they don’t
take it for granted. They are not passive receptacle of information.
Conspiracy theory is also confusing. It makes some people think that HIV is not a real illness.
It may also be one of the reasons why some people still believe that HIV does not exist.
Because those who think so would not protect themselves against a virus that does not exist.



CONCLUSION

What would be the link between Cameroonian youths’ complex relation to the West and
decision-making towards HIV prevention?
   AIDS as a non natural disease whose “ultimate causes 7 ” could be trace from its creation in
western laboratories or from the transgression of norms governing sexuality raises the
problem of curiosity in the sexual as well as in the scientific realms. Science as a tool
belonging to the West would be a weapon of domination at its service. The impression that
they are under plural dominations (economic, political, cultural…) neither gives them the
necessary sense of understanding and wiseness nor does it help them have the necessary
hindsight towards a medical-oriented decision-making for protection.
The accusations about HIV (HIV creation in laboratories, the infection of condoms with
HIV…) the heavy suspicion on the biomedical science that is so inventive and paradoxically
so powerless vis-à-vis AIDS somehow influence decision-making towards protection. Belief
in conspiracy theory and other elements from the fantastic order that concern the relation to
the West raises some questions. It questions the status of our belief. What relation do people
have to their myths ?


7
  By ultimate causes of the disease, Liddell et al, 2005 means the original cause in opposition to the direct and
last cause.


                                                                                                                    10
   Paul Veyne (1983, p. 11) talks about the existence of a plurality of myths and the
ambivalence of attitudes in face of beliefs. He asks himself how can one believe partly or
believe in contradictory things. The example of the Greeks belief on their own myths informs
us on the plurality of beliefs modalities: taking somebody’s word for it, believe thanks to
experience. The status of our own beliefs varies from one person to another and from one
time to another and depends on everyone’s capacity of analysing, refining them from their
part of exaggeration. People adherence to myths is not that complete since myths are
sometimes refined from the embellishment of the legend.
   These young people are meshed into these contradictions and their implications.
Sometimes, it seems as if they play with these myths. It’s a sort of hide-and-seek game. AIDS
comes in this context to twist the knife in the wound not much healed (of Black slavery,
colonization) and could be perceived as the last straw.

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