Tolerance and Health: Breakthrough in South Africa?2 min read
In previous posts we’ve tracked the links between tolerance, happiness and health and asked whether a wide gender gap may be a barometer of a society’s reluctance to commit to tending to basic human needs. Now recent reports strike a hopeful chord, indicating that tolerance is a precondition for combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
First, based on twenty years of data from the U.S., researchers at Emory University are reporting findings of an inverse relationship between tolerance and HIV/AIDS infection rates. In other words, the more open and tolerant a community, the more successful education efforts are. It’s no surprise that HIV/AIDS thrives in the shadows of ignorance, prejudice and fear. If it is true in a society as open as America’s, it’s no doubt doubly true in many other countries of the world. Country-level data on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is spotty, but experienced travelers know that the highest infection rates are reported in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
So it seemed like a breakthrough last week when the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, broke with years of silence and denial to openly discuss his personal history with multiple female partners and his commitment to testing and promoting circumcision to help slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. His openness is a dramatic effort to erase a stigma and set very high standard for tolerance for his people to follow. In office for a year, Mr. Zuma is putting his government’s resources behind what the United Nations has called the largest and fastest increase in AIDS testing and treatment ever.
Perhaps South Africa’s entrance onto the world stage—hosting soccer’s World Cup beginning next month—has helped to enlighten its leadership. If we want tolerance to lay the foundation for a healthier planet, let’s put all world leaders on notice: the whole world is watching.