Population and AIDS – The Non-Statistical Story

12 November 2004

Dervla Murphy, an eccentric Irish lady of late middle age, enjoyed cycling through the African bush. Her book, ‘The Ukimwi Road’ (1993), records conversations she had on the way. (Ukimwi – the slimming disease – is the KiSwahili name for AIDS.)

Clean and comfortable – “in contrast to my usual lodgings it seemed Hiltonian.”

DM writes: After supper, as I wrote in my room, Max appeared in the doorway – a cheerful, good-looking young man who worked with his wife in the hotel kitchen. Without preamble he asked, ‘What medicine do you have for this ukimwi disease?

DM. There is no medicine for ukimwi. The only solution is to avoid the virus – one man, one woman, no bar-girls!

Max: That is impossible. Very impossible for my age – I am twenty-eight, young and fit, one woman cannot satisfy me. Always I must test myself with others.

DM: Then in five years you will probably be dead – certainly in ten years…….Do you test yourself with prostitutes or friends?

Max: Of course with both……but I love only my wife because she is the mother of my children.

DM: How many children?

Max: (proudly) Five and soon another.

DM: How old is your wife?

Max: Twenty-five or twenty-six – I am not sure, maybe twenty-four, she was from school when we married. My father paid very much because she is educated like me….

DM: So now you have enough children?

Max: (giggling) No, No! We must take all God sends, it is a sin to stop children coming – the Pope, our Holy Father, says this.

DM: What does the Holy Father say about men testing themselves with many women?

Max evaded my stern gaze and asked how much (my bicycle) had cost.