Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day: Twenty Years On [A Bloggers Unite event]

There are all kinds of anniversaries: some commemorate happy events, like weddings or other achievements. Then there are the other kind. Today is the twentieth commemoration of "World Aids Day". Over the last score of years, many treatments have been discovered, extending the life of HIV/AIDS sufferers. But a few facts, culled from UNAIDS statistics, show how far we still need to go:
-33.2 million people, including two and one-half million children, have the HIV virus, which causes AIDS,
-last year, a new 2.5 million people became infected with HIV,
-about half of those who have HIV are infected before the age of 25, and are dead of AIDS by the age of 35,
-95% of AIDS cases are in the developing world, most notably in Africa. But no continent, save Antarctica, is free of AIDS victims.
I have heard that many, if not most, bloggers are under the age of 25. You're too young to remember the waves of prejudice and revulsion that followed the first cases of AIDS, in the late-70's/early 80's. Since the majority of sufferers in those days were gay, or intravenous drug users, there was a frequently stated opinion from some religious leaders, and their followers, that AIDS was nothing more or less than "God's vengeance" on those who chose to live outside the norms of society [conveniently forgetting that Christ made it a point to live with, and cure, those who lived outside the norms of His society].
As the 80's continued, two groups of AIDS victims emerged. One group were those who had been contaminated by untested blood transfusions infected with the HIV virus [a famous member of this group was tennis star Arthur Ashe]; the others came from the pool of gay males/intravenous drug users who were the first victims. A majorly unexpected member of this group was Rock Hudson. He had built a career in the movies on his "manly" reputation, but had been living a secret gay sex life for most of his Hollywood career. The announcement of his infection led to action from [former movie star and] then-President Ronald Reagan, who belatedly realized that the AIDS crisis might reach into the world of his friends and former co-stars. He came to the table late, but he at least opened up the discussion in Washington.
Then the circumstances changed. AIDS crossed into the heterosexual community. Basketball star Magic Johnson admitted that a groupie-filled lifestyle had led to his infection. A growing number of women found themselves carriers of the HIV virus. Under-developed nations discovered they, too, were victims. A growing chorus of protests and complaints led to research, and discovery, of drugs that helped many HIV/AIDS sufferers to lead longer, more healthy lives. But the goal of all disease research, a cure, remained elusive, and is still undiscovered today.
So, twenty years on from the first "World AIDS Day", where are we? Relief for the rich, suffering for the poor, is what it looks like to me. Understand, HIV/AIDS is only one of many illnesses that needs more research [I have a rooting interest in one or two diseases that should be better supported]. Let's fund more research for all the diseases that plague mankind. But let's not stop research on HIV/AIDS!
In conclusion, then; if you use intravenous drugs, don't share needles. If you're sexually active, with multiple partners, wear a condom, or make sure your partner is wearing one. Putting the question of unwanted pregnancy aside, condom use by the sexually-active has been shown to be an effective means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as other STD's. Your Older Bro somehow danced through the 80's and 90's unscathed. I'm sure that, on an occasion or two, I was playing Russian Roulette with my life. Somehow, I got lucky. It's not a risk I would care to take again. It's not a risk YOU should take. The younger you are, the more "bullet-proof" you believe yourself to be. No matter how good the sex may be, it's not worth risking your life over it. Sorry to come off like your parents, for God's sake, but I really have your best interests at heart, I promise...
-Mike Riley


WARSHOCK said...

by this time everyone knows and is aware of the AIDS menace. too bad most people are just too loose and complacent about it, instead of being extra careful, especially the adventurous teens.

Peter P said...

Great post. Great advice.

Too many people discover all too late that they are not 'bullet-proof'!