One of things I love about teaching is that I learn new things all the time from my students -- for example, two of my students recently read the book Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World´s Most Precious Stones and noted that there was connection between the diamond industry and AIDS:
During the 19th century in South Africa a growing demand for labor occurred as a result of the discovery of diamonds and gold. A need for men to work the mines created a basis of cheap labor, where the worker's families would remain in rural areas and their wages were sent home. This was an appealing labor system for both the employers and the state. The long-term separation of migrant men from their wives and families, along with the ever-present dangers of mining work and other high-risk, low-paid jobs, helped foster aggressive masculinities and sexualities among migrant laborers. These in turn have contributed massively to the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS. Both the need for multiple partners and a desire for flesh-to-flesh contact played a massive role in the spread of HIV in South Africa. These actions were seen as a normal mechanism to cope with life on the mines. Another contributor to the HIV/AIDS epidemic was the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections. Syphilis was one STI which was found at a high rate in the urban and rural areas of black South Africa. Individuals infected with STIs are proven to be much more susceptible to HIV/AIDS contraction. While their husbands were off working on the mines, wives left at home were often forced to have relations with multiple sex partners in exchange for groceries and clothing. Another factor which contributed to the rise of this epidemic was homosexual relations between men on the mines. After the men had multiple sexual relations with urban women, many of them were getting sick, especially with syphilis. This led the men to perceive the urban women as 'unclean' and they began to satisfy their sexual needs with each other, as a safer alternative. Many miners were married to other men on the mines, proving that this was an ongoing issue. This cultural practice was seen as an attempt to curb the spread of STIs and HIV. These are just a few of the reasons why the mining of diamonds in South Africa, has contributed greatly to the huge epidemic of AIDS.
Sounds like another good reason to stick to cubic zirconia....
[Addendum December 8, 2006 -- the movie Blood Diamonds with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly has just come out, providing yet more reasons to think twice about supporting an industry that, in the past, has contributed to miserable living conditions and has yet (as far as I know) to act on alleviating those conditions it helped set up.]