It’s 7pm somewhere: Lose the booze
Mia Malan’s excellent and extensively reported feature in this week’s Mail&Guardian on the impact of one Eastern Cape village’s “booze curfew” effectively shows the wide-ranging effects of alcohol consumption on many aspects of South African society – including the HIV epidemic.
The curfew, which prohibits the sale of alcohol after 7pm, was enacted in response to a drunken murder of a young man near a shebeen in November 2011. According to a community member, alcohol had been a significant contributing factor in incidents of violence in the village – and since the introduction of the law in February 2012, incidents of assault and murder have dropped to zero.
This article, however, excels in that it highlights not only the most apparent connection between South Africa’s high rates of both per capita alcohol consumption and violent crime, but also because it touches on more nuanced effects of alcohol’s role in South African society.
Importantly, Malan includes important information on the detrimental effects of alcohol on HIV prevention and management, a topic which is also extremely relevant.
Given the region’s high HIV prevalence– nearly one in three pregnant women in the region is HIV-positive – the impact of alcohol on sexual violence, safe sex practices, and the efficacy of HIV treatment is also a significant consequence of dangerous alcohol consumption.
Interviews with numerous village locals also tellingly illustrate the stark differences in how alcohol is viewed and consumed by elders and youth. While elders drink mild beer in the morning as a traditional pastime, much of the younger generation drinks more heavily and holds a worrying view of alcohol as an escape from their troubles, as well as their sole form of nighttime entertainment.
One young man interviewed states that the curfew has not changed the quantities of alcohol his peers consume, but rather only shortened the time frame in which it is consumed. Unintended consequences like these show the importance of understanding the underlying reasons behind alcohol abuse in developing policies to combat alcohol’s negative effects on society.
This feature provides readers with a comprehensive and nuanced view of the complexity of the issue as a whole, effectively demonstrating the connectivity between many issues, from alcohol to violence to HIV to the generation gap.
--Melody Hu is an intern at the Anova Health Institute