Monday, May 29, 2006

Monkey See, Monkey Do or ViceVersa

So the chimps did it, eh? Those darn Bonobos, Jane Goodall would be soooo displeased.

Apparently those sexually precocious little twits have been quietly extinguishing themselves with an immune deficiency disease for a while now. Or so some scientific chap would have us believe.

However, does his genetic research indicate that this disorder in the primates predates the advent of AIDS in human kind? That’s not clear. If it didn’t, there’s a strong likelihood that the chimps may have been infected by humans. ‘It’s a long lonely watch - those nights away from home and dorm frolics at good old Mattachine U. Hey, they’re only a couple of genetic branches removed, and those teen-aged chimps are quite hunky. Who’s to be hurt by some consensual interspecies exploration?’ It would make a cowboy weep.

Or, if the disease preceded AIDS, it means that the chimps had it before ‘Gaetan’, the gay Air Canada cabin steward, who gets the blame for AIDS promiscuity. That would lead one to believe that Gaetan, or a very close friend, may have had a real ‘lay-over’ in the Cameroon, or whereever gay monkey lovers congregate. Maybe I’m leaping here and Gaetan got it off a dirty toilet seat in a Nairobi dive, I dunno.

What I do know has naught to do with chimps. It has to do with people. The disease is terrifying in its extent and ramifications.

In the fairly near future, half the people on earth will be carrying the virus. It is one of the most successful diseases to come down the pipe - literally, if not metaphorically, since the last Ice Age. A virus that does not kill the host, in fact it does not make them sick - by and large - until they have spent years sharing their viral load through sexual interactions. Then it destroys them inevitably in a gradual reduction protracted by the application of considerable amounts of expensive medication, or hastened by the lack of basic care. Tremendous numbers of people on earth face this end, are facing this end now.

How has the world responded to this curse. Education, this story being another in the series of ‘we understand AIDS’ pieces. All those stories and $1.35 will get you a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s. Somehow these stories are supposed to help us understand that, in Canada, a truly enlightened and educated country - the rate of AIDS infections has never diminished among its initial target groups and has ballooned among females and, particularly, native Canadians. If there is a solution to Canada’s problems with aboriginal peoples - it appears the answers are booze, dope and AIDS, in a couple of generations there won’t be a native problem. But getting there won’t be any fun, for the Indians, or for us.

The care of Aids patients is going to bankrupt us. The problems with Canada’s Healthcare system now, only reflect an increased immigrant population, aging and the small number of AIDS cases requiring hospitalization. All numbers are more than likely to grow, the latter will grow exponentially. As Tom Hanks movie on the subject indicated, along with being a sick person in need of societal support, an AIDS patient is also unable to contribute to society at the time when they should be most able to do so. The resources put into their education are wasted by their inability to function due to chronic and debilitating disease. AIDS care will challenge the resources of every afflicted family and eventually the resources and mores of society itself in an effort to prolong economically useless existences.

After two decades of dealing with this disease, we know no more that we did then. What is even more disturbing, given what we do know; the treatment remains the same - avoid AIDS by practising ‘safe sex’ - wear a condom. This is it. This is the very best we can do. This is the message of hope we beam into Africa - if everyone would only wear a rubber....

AIDS is a disease spread purely by human behaviour - sexual behaviour in most cases - by close contact or infection by body fluids in others. From time to time we read of someone deliberately, it seems, infecting others after they have been diagnosed. Immediately the ‘dignity chorus’ goes into full cry, blaming the victims for failing to ‘protect themselves’. Generally the victims are women, the infector is a man and the ‘dignity’ groups vent for same sex issues on their other beats. It is truly a good thing for the same-sex lobby that AIDS made the cross-over to heterosexuals - now we all have something in common. But it’s not common sense.

AIDS is so serious that the law should protect the uninfected. AIDS carriers should not be allowed to have physical relations with anyone who doesn’t already have the disease and isolation is a virtual necessity. This isn’t because of an inhuman streak, it’s because of the very real costs of looking after sick people. Laws have been struck to curtail the behaviour of smokers - who develop and may cause diseases far less malignant, though no less deadly, than AIDS. It is imperative that governments act to stop the transmission rate of AIDS in Canada. Left uncontrolled we won’t be able to help ourselves, let along the stricken billions in other lands.

One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse must resemble a Bonobo ape.

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