Skip to comments.Sorting out the facts on AIDS
Posted on 12/02/2003 7:58:03 AM PST by mikeb704
Last Monday was designated World AIDS Day. U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson, speaking from the AIDS-ravaged continent of Africa, said that it looks like were losing the war against the deadly disease.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela hosted a concert in Cape Town as part of an effort to have AIDS declared a global emergency. Taped messages from Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson were shown.
Sitting near Mandela was Oprah Winfrey. Yes, the same Oprah who in 1987 presciently observed: "Research studies now project that one in five listen to me, hard to believe one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years. That's by 1990. One in five. It is no longer just a gay disease. Believe me."
That proved to be nonsense, as did other exhibitions of conventional wisdom on the topic. A 1985 cover of Life warned: "Now, No One Is Safe From AIDS." U.S. News & World Report cautioned: "The disease of them is suddenly the disease of us . . .finding fertile growth among heterosexuals."
The reality is that the major causes of AIDS were, and continue to be, men having sex with men and people injecting themselves with drugs. In that order. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2001 fewer than 10,000 Americans contracted AIDS through heterosexual contact.
The total number of annual AIDS cases in the U.S. has declined significantly, particularly between 1995 and 1998. So have the number of unfortunates whove died from the malady.
Even in America, however, all the news isnt so encouraging. Last month a CDC official reported a significant jump in the number of AIDS cases among homosexual men. "To some extent, there is some prevention fatigue," he said. "Its driven by a sense that HIV has become a chronic and treatable disease."
Perhaps that sense partially explains why, despite substantial increases in government spending on AIDS, the number of cases each year has been holding at about 40,000.
Total Federal expenditures for HIV/AIDS were estimated to be close to $15 billion last year. This represents almost a fivefold increase in the last dozen years. Still, critics assert much more needs to be set aside. Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark has pledged to increase spending for AIDS research, prevention and health care to $30 billion a year by 2008.
It may be tempting to think that tossing more dollars at a problem will cure it, but that rarely, if ever, is what happens. A lot of them are just squandered.
Federal dollars for AIDS are no exception. $100,000 was used to pay for a "drag queens ball" in New Jersey. $200,000 from one federally funded group was used for workshops described by a pro-homosexual newspaper as "hot, horny and healthy."
Some advocate abstinence and chastity as ways of reducing AIDS. In many quarters, such views are considered patently absurd.
Yet its interesting that the African nation thats had singular success in curtailing AIDS uses exactly that approach. Uganda has based its efforts in whats called the ABC model: Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms if A and B fail. Priority is placed on using the first two options if at all possible.
It doesnt appear as though Ugandans have been hit by "prevention fatigue." The HIV/AIDS rate has been cut in half in the last decade.
AIDS is a cultural as well as medical crisis. These days were most reluctant to "impose" our views on others. But the fact is that combating AIDS effectively will require a change of behavior by some individuals. This is the information that needs to be widely disseminated, not promises of a cure that may never be found.
The alternative is a continuing epidemic of heartbreaking proportions: Millions dying slow, painful deaths, their orphans struggling to survive. AIDS isnt caused by a lack of Federal funding or too few people wearing red ribbons.
Clearly I left off Homosexual activity, the number one cause of spreading AIDS in these United States.
It's my impression, too, but who's the last famous person to die of AIDS? Last I remember is Arthur Ashe in the mid 1990's. I can't believe that 100% of the Hollywood crowd is 100% faithful to the use of condoms or abstinence, maybe the drugs do effectively treat HIV the same way insulin treats, but does not cure, diabetes.
Eventually, diabetics get some final illness that might have arisen from improper management of the disease, or it might be from something that we all get from getting older. In either case, they get to live a near-normal lifespan. It might be that case with people who can afford (or be provided) cutting-edge drug therapies.
I would suppose that some of the drugs that were developed early on in AIDS research are past their patents, and can be made fairly cheaply on obsolete but functional equipment. Providing them to Africa could be done, but I favor letting private individuals make donations to this effect, if they so desire. It becomes a choice of "save the children" vs. "save their parents", for those inclined to pour money into Africa.
It's the bug chasers.
From CNN in 1998:
In 1996, with more than a half million cancer deaths, the National Institutes of Health dedicated $2.5 billion to cancer research. With over 32,000 AIDS deaths, $1.4 billion went to AIDS research. And with more than three-quarters of a million heart disease fatalities, $851 million went to cardiovascular research.
A blue-ribbon panel appointed by the Institute of Medicine broke it down this way: For every $10 spent per cancer death on cancer research, $110 is spent per AIDS death on AIDS research and $3 is spent per heart disease death on heart disease research.
We need to keep in mind that there are already several hundred thousand Americans with AIDS, so I think they'd need to be included with the new 40,000 each year. Anyway you cut it, it's a disproportionate share of health dollars,
And a lack of Federal funding of course.
It is a well-documented fact that numerous factors unique to the third world make heterosexual transmission a lot easier there.
Also, the blood supply is tainted, so lots of people there get it through transfusions. Medical needles aren't well sterilized, so lots more people get it from injections.
It's a mess, and in today's interconnected world, we ignore it at our peril.
That being said, most AIDS prevetion programs that mindlessly push condoms aren't doing any good.
Is that really true?
Turning away needed blood
An American Red Cross commercial states that every few seconds, there is someone in need of a blood donation. But what the commercial doesn't say is that if you are a homosexual man, they don't want your donation. The Red Cross does not allow any man who has had homosexual sex since 1977 to donate blood.
They are refusing donations from individuals who want to help on the basis of their sexual orientation. The American Red Cross created the policy because men who engage in homosexual sex are at a higher risk for transmitting diseases.
The Center for Disease Control reports 40,000 new cases of HIV in the United States annually. Men are more likely to contract HIV than women, and the center estimates that about 60 percent of men were infected through homosexual sex, 25 percent through injection drug use, and 15 percent through heterosexual sex.
The statistics do show a high instance of HIV being transmitted through homosexual sex. In that respect, the Red Cross does have a valid point. It appears that homosexual men are more likely than straight men and women to have contracted HIV.
But this does not mean that it is acceptable for the Red Cross to refuse blood donations from men who have engaged in homosexual sex. They would never think of refusing blood donations based on ethnicity, although there might be a higher instance of HIV amongst a certain ethnic group.
Of the total number of HIV positive men, 50 percent are black, 30 percent are white, 20 percent are Hispanic and a small percentage are members of other racial or ethnic groups. Should we then bar black men from donating?
The general public would be outraged if blood from a certain ethnic group was refused. Yet somehow, the Red Cross has deemed it appropriate to refuse blood from gay men. If the Red Cross refuses to discriminate according to race, it should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
This statute is discriminatory as well as being outdated. Homosexual men are barred from donating if they've had sex with another man in the last 20 years, but this time period is ridiculously long-term. If a man engaged in homosexual intercourse over 20 years ago, HIV would have shown up in his blood long before now. Donor blood is carefully screened. If HIV was present in the blood, it would show up in the first screening. [NOTE: ever hear of a false negative result? -- FormerLib]
Instead of refusing donations from men who have engaged in homosexual sex, the Red Cross should simply red-flag the blood, and keep it longer for extra testing. The Red Cross could do this for all donations they feel might be questionable, such as blood from donors who engage in unprotected sex or intravenous drug use.
By red-flagging the blood, the Red Cross could simultaneously protect the recipients of donated blood and put a stop to blatant discrimination.