Originally published on Advocate.com July 15 2003 12:00 AM ET
Libyan leader Mu'ammar Gadhafi told a conference of African leaders Saturday that Africans who are "straight" need not fear AIDS, which is ravaging many countries on the continent. Speaking through a translator, Gadhafi drew some laughter with his reference that AIDS affects only homosexuals. He told the closing session of the eight-day annual African Union conference, "All you have to do is observe the rules. If you are straight, you have nothing to fear from AIDS." He also described HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as "a peaceful virus, not an aggressive virus." Of the 42 million people worldwide infected with HIV, 29 million live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Gadhafi added in his address to 40 African heads of state that they should also not "worry about tsetse flies and mosquitoes"--which carry malaria and sleeping sickness--saying they were "God's armies" protecting Africa from its enemies, apparently foreigners. "If they come here, they will get malaria and sleeping sickness," he said. Malaria kills 5 million Africans a year, while sleeping sickness--also known
as African trypanosomiasis--kills more than 25,000 people in Africa a year.