This is the 25th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis.  The disease now stands as the deadliest epidemic the world has ever seen.  25 million people have died, including 500,000 Americans.  Another 40 million currently live with the virus.  A small fraction of those infected receive the anti-retroviral medication that holds the disease at bay.  There is no cure.  There is no vaccine.  New infections occur every minute of every day.  AIDS deaths in Africa are expected to top 100 million within the next decade, far more than the Black Plague that decimated Europe in the middle ages.  The history books read by future generations will take little notice of the issues that occupy us: illegal immigration, social security, the war in Iraq.  Hundreds of years from now, our era will be known as the Age of AIDS.

That’s a sorry state of affairs considering that, unlike the Black Plague, the virus that causes AIDS is 100% preventable.  Sorrier still is the fact that even now, in the face of such devastation, AIDS prevention efforts continue to be hampered by the ideological blinders worn by people in power.

Last week a massive international conference led by the UNAIDS organization attempted to hammer out a resolution, a kind of road map, to update the one they put together in 2001.  The document states that prevention efforts must be targeted at “vulnerable populations,” which is a code word for prostitutes, IV drugs users, and homosexual men.  Conservative nations, mostly Islamic, refused to allow those words to appear on the resolution, and balked at even the mealy-mouthed “vulnerable populations” language.  I am happy to report that the U.S. was not among those nations this time, although we were in 2001.  You can read the final declaration of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session here.

But we are not off the hook.  Although the Bush administration dramatically increased our financial contribution to fighting AIDS worldwide, every U.S. dollar comes with ideological strings attached.  Bush favors an “abstinence until marriage ONLY” approach to AIDS prevention, and ties U.S. contributions to those programs.  The restrictions on how U.S. funds are spent are so stringent that Brazil refused 40 million dollars from the U.S., because accepting the money would have limited their ability to provide AIDS education and prevention resources to sex workers. 

Abstinence-until-marriage rhetoric is a cruel joke in third world countries.  World-wide, 80% of women who contract HIV are infected by their husbands.  Between AIDS, death in childbirth, and abuse, getting married is the riskiest thing a woman in a developing country can do.  But women in the third world lack the social and economic power to refuse to marry, and once married, they cannot refuse to have sex with their husbands or insist on condom use. 

Abstinence-only also receives 100% of federal dollars spent on sex education and AIDS prevention programs in U.S. schools.  There’s a whole other post in that, so I won’t go on about it now.  I’ll discuss the Bush administration’s anti-condom stance another day.

The federal government also refuses to fund needle exchange programs on ideological grounds, even though the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that needle exchange programs reduce HIV incidence without increasing drug use.  And indeed, it seems quite obvious.  A non-drug user won’t shoot up just because clean needles are handed out on the street corner.  And a junkie in need of a fix will not hesitate to use a dirty needle if he doesn’t have a clean one in his pocket.

I know I post about AIDS stuff a lot.  Maybe you are tired of hearing about it.  Well here’s a fact to keep you up at night.  There are already medication-resistant strains of the virus running around, and they will only increase in prevalence.  And a large percentage of individuals carrying HIV do not know they are infected.  Don’t let your guard down.  Don’t think you can’t get it.  And don’t think that it’s no big deal if you do.  25 million dead, and counting. 




23 thoughts on “

  1. What an eye-opening post. These are things you know about, but fail to think about till it happens to you! I wish more people would educate themselves on AIDS and take the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of such a devaastating disease. Ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is power. I hopem one day we are able to find a cure.

  2. I agree with you about the absurdity of the abstinence until marriage teachings. It reminds me of that Medieval king who ordered the tide to stop coming in, although in his case, he was demonstrating to his followers that he wasn’t all-powerful. Bush is completely deluded.My husband got sprayed in the face/eyes with contents from a needle that had just been in a patient with AIDS. So far, all his tests have been negative, but he won’t be officially clear until his final blood test in October. It has been a huge inconvenience for us, but luckily, just an inconvenience and not a catastrophe.

  3. AIDS……I was around, nursing then. Shortly after, I witnessed someone die from AIDS. I vowed then that I wouldn’t wish that death on a dog or my worst enemy. My roomie’s companion died from AIDS and he took care of him until the end. Waiting for the condom post from you.

  4. I’m NOT tired of hearing about it. I can’t understnd why we don’t hear about it more. My sister has worked with prositutes & prostitute education before. Abstinence before marriage means nothing to them as they were sexually abused from childhood. The mega church in town has recieved federal money to teach abstinence only in schools. They have a group that teaches women’s subserviance too. Your post points out how that will only make the problem worse. Sadly, they have so much of our tax $$$ that they are now reaching out to other towns. ugh

  5. Someone very close to me died of AIDS a number of years ago. I don’t ever think I will forget the pain and agony – it truly was a horrible experience. I don’t know that anyone can actually understand it until they’ve been through it. My prayer is that I never have to watch someone I love die that way again.~Steve

  6. Why would Bush make good decisions with this issue when he’s a complete ass with most other issues as well?  Sadly, we don’t hear about it in the media because we’ve grown accustomed to AIDS being around.  It’s a sad world.

  7. It’s sad how even the best-intentioned programs by this administration get undermined by its ideology.  Abstinence education programs don’t prevent HIV, don’t prevent teen pregnancy, don’t reduce the number of abortions, and don’t accomplish much of anything except pander to those in the religious right who don’t think these things can happen to them or their families. 

  8. I hate the idea of “morality” getting in the way of saving lives. I suppose though if you are a “Holier than thou” christian you figuire the infidels get what they deserve. Can’t follow “g@d’s word” well, death to you!!! It’s one way of insuring a purely “christian” society. Well except that it’s not, and I don’t really think that allowing millions to die when a bit of education could go a long way is what Jesus would do.

  9. Absurd, isn’t it, that Bush favors abstinence when he has — on occasions too numerous to count — proven himself to be the biggest Dickhead in the universe?

  10. People don’t hear this nearly enough. I think it needs to be shoved in everyone’s faces repeatedly until they get a clue that this isn’t something that’s going to go away. And also, Bush sucks as usual.

  11. I think I will just go to the south side of Chicago and tell those junkies to just quit using, I am sure this never occured to them before and I will then tell the prostitutes and the thousands of other people to stop having sex unless they are married, because you know that may not have occured to them either. While I am at it, I think I will tell all fat people they need to go on a diet and all smokers to quit. I am sure this will work, because it’s a perfect world and if you want to prevent any kind of disease you just have to tell people to just say no. It’s so simple I can’t belive no one thought of that before. Oh wait someone did, that’s strange by all rights I should be jobless, I wonder why the boys at work did not listen when they were told by the government to just say no. Teach abstinence until marriage, why didn’t I think of that? Duh. Does this apply to Gay people too, oh that’s right they aren’t allowed to get married, we should just tell them to go straight.

  12. Keep on saying it. Guess it takes reminding over and over. I agree with what you said about how we will be remembered, but I think that you are wrong about remembering the Iraq War. The Iraq Way will likely be remembered for a long, long time. It could very well become known as the first of the pre-emptive wars that turned the tide in how the rest of the world viewed and dealt with the United States.

  13. Oh I’m sure there was a little drunken partying… we are Lutherans, after all.  I just didn’t partake because of sheer exhaustion.

  14. Wow, lots of info!
    As I facilitate the parent-teen survival parent we discuss 3 styles of parenting:
    Rigid:  What the parents say is so….no discussion, no negotiating
    Lenient:  No rules, anything goes.
    Resolving problems:  Both teen and parent sit down and discuss limits and consequences if those limites are broken.
    I tell parents that we must have a bit of each of these to raise healty, independent children. 
    The Rigid would  include Abstinence-until-marriage, no drugs, no alcohol. 
     Bush favors an “abstinence until marriage ONLY” approach to AIDS prevention, and ties U.S. contributions to those programs. 
    I think President Bush is sincere regarding his approach, as was Nancy Regan to “Just Say No” regarding drugs. Use the funds that are allocated and make a differnece…..
    What then is the answer?

  15. I’m glad that you have a keen interest on this matter. I don’t think there is enough education about the need to prevent such a condition from proliferating even further – mild advertisements about African children wasting away, from my opinion, does not apply to most other societies. Having heard of cases where wives are infected by STDs from husbands who visit brothels or practise unsafe sex outside is good enough to tell one that being married doesn’t guarantee that the sex is safe. Having selfish partners who won’t use condoms/ don’t know about them/ how to use them is also nuts – what’s even worse is that kids are getting their hands dirty but think that condoms “have no real function”. Its quite exhausting trying to explain to them that AIDS is not just the only death sentence out there – other STDs can be just as damaging – they kill you in other ways, just not entirely.

  16. I’m not tired of hearing about it. You should post more about AIDS. This information concerns us ALL. Too bad the idiots in power are too blind to see that abstinence to prevent AIDS is like trying to stop a hurricane with Condoleezza’s new shoes.

  17. Please post more about AIDs! I’ve had several close friends die of AIDs. It is reassuring to have someone acknowledge it. Too many people deny AIDs (“Oh, he died of liver cancer”) because it is associated with homosexual men, and for many people homosexuality is a sin. If people believe homosexuality is a sin, that’s is their opinion, but that belief should not be an excuse to neglect an epidemic!
    Since mothers can pass on AIDs during childbirth, abstinence isn’t the solution.

  18. Well.  Lemme tell you that not one single hetero white guy I ever slept with or talked about AIDS with believed he could contract AIDS ever.  And I’m thinking, ‘but what if some woman/man/chimp you had sex with had had sex with someone who had had sex with someone back when and they all were HIV positive, how could you know?  How could you know that married woman you had sex with – that her husband wasn’t sleeping around?’  I mean what is with these guys?  Good think I’m fast approaching prunedom. 

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