Out of the blue, one Monday morning, my Prince Charming calls from Dakar. He has been invited to an Aids conference in South Africa. Can I pick him up at Johannesburg International airport on Friday? Yummy. Nice prospect for a honeymoon weekend. I wax, manicure, pedicure, colour hair, stock up on bubbly, candles and that good old ally, KY gel.
Most Africans know what to say about Aids -- information campaigns have achieved this much. However, being designed in the capitals by Western-educated health experts and NGO staff, and funded by Western donors, these campaigns ignore traditional explanations of illness, prevention, healing and death embedded in the cultural matrix of many Africans.
It's 1.30pm in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, on Friday. Traffic stops around the Old Mosque. Thousands fill the streets. When the muezzin calls, they kneel, bow and pray in perfect unison. The sermon dwells on how to avoid contracting HIV, and the fact that people who are infected with the virus must be helped, not shunned.