Curtain Raiser

Still No Cure for Aids, Colltalers

The event last week that arguably has the power to affect the most people on the planet was not the opening of the Summer Olympics, but the AIDS international conference, held in the U.S. for the first time in over 20 years.
And unlike the beautiful show and fireworks that started off the games, and all the humanity-affirming stories behind the lives of those competing in London, the conference had much less to celebrate.
First the good news. For the first time, the U.S.’s lifted the ban preventing HIV+-carrying people from attending the conference. Also, there was a noticeable shortage of the congratulatory tone that has marked the speeches of many guests in past editions.
Generally, there’s a new commitment of public health officials in this and other countries to treat AIDS along with its currently twin scourge, poverty, in many ways, more a determining factor rather than a mere component of the epidemic.
There was some sparse news in the purely scientific frontier, although no major breakthrough. Participants were happy to learn about the Berlin Patient, Timothy Ray Brown, the first HIV+ person to have been cured. Unfortunately, his case is exceptionally unique and can hardly serve to most of everybody else suffering the disease.
But the really bad news come in two prongs, unfortunately. One, is the already mentioned fact that, in the undeveloped world, no cure will ever be possible without addressing the highly complex social problems plaguing it.
In other words, no treatment will be viable if the victims are under siege, either by extreme poverty and hunger, or by local warlords, who terrorize and even enslave them at their will. And remain out of reach of the law.
Also, if we have made some progress in prevention and treatment, specially in western societies, prejudice is still a serious obstacle to get anything done. The U.S. itself set a bad example when it prevented sex workers here and around the world to participate in the AIDS conference.
Such spectacular myopia results in the fact that those in the front lines of the fight against transmission of the HIV virus, the ones most vulnerable to its spread and lethal power, can’t even report what they live through daily on the ground.
If the situation improved enormously for the gay community, thanks to the courage of grass roots movements to took upon themselves to expose the for-profit mentality of the health care industry, still in the 1980s, the spread of AIDS to the rest of the world has only brought about more misery and despair.
It’s not that the so-called minorities are out of the woods yet; as far as the virus is concerned, everyone is at risk. But now the majority of victims are mothers and children, which made up for the bulk of the estimated 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths only in 2010.
While cases of HIV infection continue to dwindle in rich societies, they’re still on the rise in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
If our children are to live in an AIDS-free world, the awareness that even now this disease has no cure and its treatment is expensive and not for every single patient needs to remain sharp in everybody’s minds and hearts.
We hate to be the bearers of such terrible news, but with the number of people living under the poverty line in the U.S. steadily increasing, it’s just logical to expect that the number of AIDS fatalities, or at least new cases, will also rise.
Think about that as we enter August this week ahead, and see if there’s something you and everyone can do about it. Be safe and have a good one. WC



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