Is compulsory HIV testing a solution to the HIV/AIDS crisis?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It is not a secret that sub-Saharan Africa is the epicentre of poverty in the world. In fact the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently voiced concerns that the region might not even be able to attain any of the poverty busting goals as articulated in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) document.

One of the major causes of this state of affairs is the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is causing havoc by crippling the productive workforce (“bread winners”) leaving behind a multitude of helpless and hopeless orphans and thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, sub-Saharan Africa seems to lead in the spread of this deadly virus. This means that unless the problem of HIV/AIDS is adequately addressed, our generation and indeed even generations to come, shall continue to be stuck in the quagmire of poverty.

And we all know that poverty is not something to be proud of. Poverty reduces human dignity and no human being was destined to be in a state of poverty, let alone for the rest of their lives.

Now, what can we do to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa? I think we have heard about programmes promoting the ABC approach to combat the spread of the virus. Lets remind each other; the acronym ABC stands for Abstain, Be faithful or Condomise. Some people have added M to the acronym to come up with the ABCM approach. I hope you guess what the M stands for… Then there are programmes promoting Voluntary HIV Testing, not forgetting the free distribution of Anti-RetroViral (ARV) drugs to those living with HIV/AIDS.

However, all these initiatives have not slowed down the spread of the pandemic. Does this mean that these solutions are not counteracting the spread of HIV/AIDS? Or maybe we are merely treating symptoms of a bigger problem?

The answers belong to the reader but in my opinion, it seems they are not working. I think its time we start using “radical” approaches otherwise our generation is doomed to extinction.

Can compulsory HIV testing therefore be a lasting solution to this problem? I recently read in the papers about some Namibian official advocating for compulsory HIV testing at a recent HIV/AIDS workshop in Windhoek. Personally, I totally agree with him that there should be legislation in each country that should make it mandatory for every citizen to be tested of the virus. I support him for the following reasons:

  • If every citizen is tested, governments will have “real” statistics on the number of people infected and thus plan properly on how they could be put on life prolonging anti-retroviral treatment.
  • Each citizen will know their status and therefore plan their individual lives properly. This will help individuals not to live in an “ostrich” state by pretending that they do not have the virus yet they don’t exactly know their sero-status.
  • Voluntary testing has failed to entice many people to go for the test. Just ask yourself on the number of people who have gone for HIV testing voluntarily. Personally, have you already done so?
  • There is potential that those who know that they are positive and they deliberately infect others, may be brought for prosecution. Do you support this?

Opponents to compulsory HIV testing may state that this is tantamount to violation of the right to privacy. But what about the right to life? HIV/AIDS infection is a threat to life and therefore all measures have to be taken to make sure that life is protected and preserved. I feel the right to life is above the right to privacy.

What do you think? Feel free to comment and lets remember that together we can combat this scourge and possibly later have an HIV-free generation in sub-Saharan Africa.



Do you trust the software you have on your computer?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nowadays, many people download and install different software from the Web onto their computers. For example, one might download media players, anti-virus software, photo-editing software,..., the list is endless.

However, the question might be: How much trust do you have on the software you install on your computer? To understand the importance of this question, we might need a definition of the word "trust". According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, trust is defined as "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something". The Free Dictionary defines trust as "firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing".

Consider a case where you download and install a media player on your computer and every time you open it, it collects your private information such as your credit card information and even your passwords and it sends them over to the person who created the software? Is this what the software was supposed to do. I do no think so. You had the trust that the media player was supposed to be used to play media files and not to be collecting your private information without your knowledge. Isn't it? I hope we now see how trust is a fundamental issue in software.

When we install particular software do we ask ourselves questions on the integrity or reliability of the software? Or we just blindly trust that the software is supposed to do what the software developers tell us of their software. I think as software users we need to be more careful.

I for one only have trust in software whose source code is "open". By the way source code are human readable and understandable instructions which are later converted to a form which a computer can execute i.e. binary code. A computer can only execute instructions in binary code. So if the source code is "open", I can inspect the code of the software and see by myself whether the software really does what its developers claim it does. On the other hand, if the software is distributed only in binary code and its source code is hidden from the public then it becomes a problem to trust that piece of software.

Fortunately, there are loads of software out there which have open source code. One great open source software is the robust Web browser, Mozilla Firefox. I just love it so much after being tired of ... Whether you are using Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, you may download Firefox from

Are you interested in learning more about open source software, then its time to make that move by logging on to this website: and possibly now start to trust the software you install on your computer.

Good luck!


Of James Watson's Racist Remarks and His Suspension

Friday, October 19, 2007

A news item on BBC News website entitled "Lab suspends DNA pioneer Watson" caught my attention. Reading through the article left me shocked as I learnt that the DNA scientist, James Watson, was quoted as saying that "Blacks were less intelligent than Whites".

I first knew about Dr James Watson in my Genetics class of my undergraduate work. We learnt how he co-pioneered in DNA research. I did not like the Genetics class because personally I believe in Intelligent Design rather than in the Theory of Evolution.

I am not surprised to hear these statements from an evolutionist because this is the view that has always been promoted by the theory of evolution. I am sad to say that it was because of these race "superiority" and "inferiority" views that led one Hitler of Nazi Germany to commit one of the greatest human tragedies, the Jewish Holocaust. We should also not forget that some used the theory of evolution to justify another human tragedy, slave trade in Africa.

Personally, I believe that skin colour does not determine one's intelligence. This is because there are some black people who are more intelligent than some white people much as there are some white people who are more intelligent than some black people. I think overgeneralization and stereotyping has no place in the modern world and it is very unfortunate that such a "learned" scientist could allow his personal prejudices influence him to make such unscientific statements.

It is of great relief to learn that his sentiments have been widely condemned and he has been suspended from his research institution. In addition, his public talks in Europe have been cancelled. I understand he has issued an "unreserved" apology for this mishap but I find that this apology is not welcome. At least for me!

Check more on this debate on these websites:


Why I "love" and "hate" programming

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I wrote my first computer program in 1999 when I was doing my undergraduate work at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. If you are a programmer, you should know what that program is. Did you say "Hello World"? If yes, give yourself a pat at the back. That is exactly the first program I wrote in dear PASCAL. I still remember vividly how I was unable to distinguish the "semantics" and "syntax" of a computer program but still more, I had the joy of seeing my first program run.

Little did I know that I would take programming as part of my life and career. Six or so years have passed since I wrote my first program and I am glad to say that I have now programmed in almost all "respectable" programming languages (No offence intended). You know good programming languages like ...

I enjoy programming a lot because one can abstractly command a machine to do some task and it does that within a few seconds (Of course if you have a reasonable time complexity for your program). It seems I like working in the abstract rather in the concrete. I suppose that is why I also naturally love Mathematics especially the beautiful topic of Abstract Algebra.

However, the joys of programming come at a cost. If you have done some serious programming, you should know the daunting task of program debugging. I hope you know cases where a misplaced or forgotten semicolon in program code could give a headache! What about cases where a running program is producing incorrect output? Hahaha... a semantically incorrect program? I know many programmers do not take program testing seriously but this is an equally daunting step in programming especially for non-trivial programs.

When a program is misbehaving (either by not running or not running correctly), a programmer will try to find ways to correct the situation. For very difficult programs, I try to take a walk just to refresh my brain while brainstorming on a possible solution. I think that when a program is not running correctly, it is not good to spend the whole night in front of the computer trying to run it. Most importantly, it is better to understand the problem first before trying to do some coding.

Have I said why I "hate" programming? It seems no. Programming is addictive just as surfing the Web, at least for me. And it seems I am addicted to both. I do not imagine life without the Web. Any help for these addictions?


Andrea Bocelli: Another World Class Talent

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good music crosses cultural boundaries. This is quite evident in the great music of one Andrea Bocelli, an operatic Italian tenor. Am talking of one the songs he co-sang with the great Sarah Brightman. Hey! Am talking of the masterpiece "Time to Say Goodbye" (Con Te PartirĂ²).

One can hardly believe that Andrea Bocelli is blind. According to Wikipedia, he got blind at the age of 12. However, this blindness has not deterred him from expressing his amazing God given talent. I can say that he stands shoulder to shoulder with the great Italian tenor, the late Luciano Pavarotti.

When I listen to songs by Bocelli, I usually find myself drifting in memories. I am always reminded of the good time I had among Italians when I visited the Italian cities of Venice(Venizia) and Trieste in 2004. The people were wonderful. I could not understand Italian but most of them were very willing to give directions if asked. You know what I mean if you have been to a foreign country. I also have memories of one of our instructors at the institution which was hosting us. We were being hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics ( The instructor was just a very friendly guy and we felt very welcome and relaxed in a matter of just a few days. I still remember his name as Marco Zennaro. You see, kindness is golden.

Check out a duet of Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli doing "Time to Say Goodbye" in this YouTube video.

If you like fast music, then watch a DJ remix of the same song by one DJ Cleo of South Africa in the following video:

The talent of Andrea Bocelli always reminds me that "Physical disability is not inability".


Some "crazy" things we search on the Web

Friday, October 12, 2007

Search engines have completely transformed the way we find information on the web. With powerful search engines such as Google and Yahoo, a simple query on the search engine web interface, sometimes leads to a large number of web links which may contain the desired information. Normally, I usually get the information I am looking for, from the first set of query results displayed.

My searches range from stuff like "MCL clustering algorithms" to crazy stuff like song lyrics. These varying searches have sometimes led me to find funny and educating websites like

But this other day, I mean today, I found myself searching for "how to tie a necktie". I must confess that all along I didn't know how to tie a necktie. I am usually a semi-formal person and I usually like putting on my traditional Malawian wear. After all, I am a scientist. Are scientists supposed to dress in a formal manner or casual manner? I hope this is debatable. However, check out some pictures of traditional Malawian wear on

There are times that no matter what, you have to put on a necktie. I hope you remember your first job interview if you have already had one and you are a man. I guess, women do not put on neckties. So, being "cornered", I had to go to a shop to buy a necktie. I bought one and now the question was how to tie the necktie. A quick search on Google led me to the website The steps are easy to follow and wow I had a wonderful necktie on my neck!!!

Some of the "crazy" things we search on the web. Hmmmm!!!


Of Hotel Rwanda and the Darfur Crisis

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I am not a movie fan because of ... However, I managed to watch the movie Hotel Rwanda yesterday which was released in 2004. Although some question the heroism of the star of the film, Paul Rusesabagina, I personally salute the man for the great, heroic act.

I was personally moved by the movie because it reminded me of a Rwandese friend I met in my home country, Malawi. I remember how he narrated how his mother (a Tutsi) escaped the massacre by hiding in the ceiling of their house.

I also salute the then rebels, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), for what they did in rescuing the situation. No wonder, we have a road in my home country that is named after the RPF leader, Paul Kagame. But get me right, I am not saying that the RPF were 'saints'...

I am also glad that some perpetrators of this cruelty have been brought to book. For example, General Bizimungu who was nabbed in Angola in 2002 and is now under the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. For more information about the status of the Rwandan genocide architects, just log on to the ICTR website on

Now turning to the Darfur Crisis, is the world just watching the genocide happening in Darfur as it watched the Rwandan genocide happening in 1994. Whatever the powers that might be, PLEASE SAVE INNOCENT DARFURIS!


Another cold day...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Its another cold day in Gaborone. The weather is too chilly outside. Its so cloudy and cold. I don't have any option but to stay indoors. I like warm to hot weather and I feel very bored.


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