Friday, July 23, 2010

AIDS Redux - the Sequel

The annual world-wide AIDS competition, er, conference is wrapping up this week. The annual gathering of all those with a stake, or an interest in the plague of the 21st century were gathered in Vienna to hear the hopeful news (not much), to get the latest in alerts (women and young people seem to be in particular danger this year) and to hear the latest in excuses.

 In the past we've had ignorance, then poverty, and lack of medications to add to the other excuses for the spread of AIDS - risky sexual behaviors and intravenous drug use. This year the 'boogieman' thwarting the stoppage of AIDS is a lack of human rights.

It seems that in countries where the powers that be can do anything they want to individuals, those suffering with AIDS are very reticent to step forward. The fear of physical punishment and or imprisonment, or even death leaves them to develop full-blown illness and then die when retrovirals could slow that progression so they could have longer lives trying to eke out a living. When I hear that, I think of tyrannies like they have in Cuba where there may be no civil rights, but the treatment for AIDS patients is world-class. The big difference is that those diagnosed with AIDS are no longer at large to mix with those who don't have the disease. If freedom to infect others is a bench mark of human rights for AIDS sufferers, sign me up for the school that uses firing squads. I don't think anybody has the 'right' to give anybody else an incurable disease - especially one requiring intimate contact or exchange of body fluids  for transmission. It's not quite the same as sneezing on a bus. In actuality, however, I think the human rights thing is a red herring.

The real problem, and the one as yet un-addressed is that, once infected with AIDS, you have, on average, three years before the disease progresses far enough to make you feel like you need a doctor's attention. In that period, the viral load in your blood may be growing steadily, but you're not sick enough to think that you might be spreading anything worse than spit and semen. It is these folk with AIDS, who don't yet know they have it, who are causing the undiminished 'new infection' rate of about 12 percent. With the exception of the few odd cases where someone deliberately infects others, most people with AIDS are very careful about not transmitting it to friends and others intimate with them. But as yet there is nothing the AIDS body is willing to do that would address this issue, other than to encourage wide-spread AIDS 'education'. Lesson one of that course is that 'we' have nothing to fear from people with AIDS - the ones who know they have it at least. And the rest? Well, if you're doing 'risky business', you should get yourself tested and vulcanize yourself.

So the well-paid activists, spokespersons and workers in AIDs-directed charities and NGOs can pat themselves on the back for another years' work done. They can waggle fingers at governments who aren't kicking-in as much as they might. And 'tsk-tsk' about the tragedies. When it comes to serving useless purposes they are well up there, for the only thing they 'do' is an annual 'awareness' of our insufficiencies. As if the world could forget.

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