Date: Fri, 23 Aug 1996 09:21:31 +0800 (WST)
From: Peter Limb <>
Subject: Norwegian Govt blames AIDS on Africans, Africans united in anger
From: R Sadki <>
Subject: Norwegian Govt blames AIDS on Africans, Africans united in anger

Norway's African community united in anger

Migrants against AIDS, Issue 4, August 1996

Norway's African community united in angry protest following a press conference held in early July by Norwegian authorities to warn the white population that Africans are potential HIV carriers. Africans have been blamed for too many things, stated Helen Peters of the Norwegian Immigration Group of People Living with HIV/AIDS (INPluss). This was the last straw.

It took less than a week to organize a demonstration outside the Norwegian Board of Health. Two hundred Africans and their allies gathered to demand a public apology from the government. Africans in Norway are outraged by the Health Department's racist statements about Africans being responsible for spreading HIV and AIDS in Norway, a statement by the protesters said. The group considers the official warning to [white] Norwegians against having sex with Africans to be blatant discrimination at the governmental level.

Any health worker knows that AIDS is not limited to a particular group or colour, explains Peters. Yet, she points out, the warning was to Norwegians only, as if government concern is limited to its own white citizens.

Of course the announcement has fanned the flames of media racism. Worse, when newspapers headlined a 10% HIV infection rate for Africans in Norway, the Board of Health said nothing.

According to INPluss, the actual percentage is around two percent. Norway's African community numbers about 12 000 in a country of 4.3 million. We are dispersed and divided by country of origin, stated Peters. But this time we are united as Africans.

In 1995, 1537 people were diagnosed as HIV+ in Norway, including 244 Africans. Of these only 150 are still in the country. The others were either deported immediately or denied permits and thereby forced to return home.

The government statement read: [The Board] warns Norwegian women and men against having unprotected sex with Africans, especially those that come from south of the Sahara. Public health officials cited two cases of African men supposedly responsible for the infection of six Norwegian women and new studies which show that a number of Norwegian women have sex with African men.

The officials did not mention that one of the men in question is dead and the other may have been deported.

Also, such a warning to Norwegians is an implicit threat to Africans. Norway passed an infectious disease control law (Smittevernloven) last year. Such laws in Sweden, Denmark, and elsewhere have disproportionately targetted people of colour (see our other front-page story).

Peters told Migrants against HIV/AIDS that, despite previous collaboration with the Board, no one was contacted about the impending announcement. And despite a second public protest, broad support from other HIV/AIDS organizations, and even political parties, Board of Health authorities have refused to meet with the protesters.

Board Director Anne Alvik has stated publicly that she stands by the warning. The protestors have called for her resignation if there is no public apology for the warning. Until demands (see box) are met, the protestors will not cooperate with the Board.

The conflict has put in jeopardy over three years of AIDS organizing in the African community.

Since 1993, several African HIV groups and representatives of the Board of Health had been meeting regularly to develop strategies to bring HIV+ immigrants together. Last October, at the Third European Meeting on Ethnic Minorities, Migrants and AIDS, Helen Peters stated: I think it is the right time to face the reality that HIV/AIDS is here among us. We must tackle it as an immigrant community together. Intense ground work led to the founding of INPluss, which today has 16 members. We would have been 19, explained Peters, but two have been deported and one went underground to avoid deportation.

Resolutions & Demands:

Since the press conference, a broad coalition of Africans of various countries and backgrounds has come together. Excerpts of their demands and resolutions:

What you can do:

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