AIDS INDUSTRY PUSHES POLITICS OVER HEALTH,
WHILE REAL KILLER DISEASES THAT COULD BE
PREVENTED OR CURED GET SCANT ATTENTION
By Michawl Fumento
Toss out those condoms; forget abstinence, and don’t bother getting tested. Or, what part of “all” don’t you understand?
Seriously, this bit of propaganda is but one illustration of how AIDS prevention has always been handicapped by politics. Nobody believes we all have AIDS; but many have bought into the “Everyone is at risk” nonsense that clearly works against targeting those truly at risk. The entire science of epidemiology – which began when London physician John Snow determined that cholera cases in his city clustered around a single water pump – depends on identifying risk factors to ameliorate them. In Snow’s case, he simply removed the pump handle and the epidemic ended.
He was lucky he didn’t have to deal with activists carrying signs reading:
Since 1985, when Life magazine blared in huge red letters, “Now No One Is Safe from AIDS,” activists have fought furiously against the idea that AIDS targets those who engage in selective behaviors. Yet, over two decades later, AIDS remains in this country overwhelmingly a disease of homosexual males and intravenous drug users. Fewer than 39,000 Americans were diagnosed with AIDS in 2004 (latest data available), and fewer than 16,000 died from it. That’s about one in 770 and one in 1,875 respectively. Fact is, almost everybody is safe from AIDS.
But, of course, the focus of this conference is on international AIDS, which we all know is wiping whole continents off the map. A high Ugandan official said that, within two years, his nation will “be a desert.” ABC News Nightline declared that, within 12 years, “50 million Africans may have died of AIDS.”
Problem is, those predictions were made in 1986 and 1988. Yet, since 1985, Uganda’s population has doubled. Nightline’s 50 million dead by the year 2000 proved to be 20 million by 2005, according to the UN’s estimate. Further, “In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the largest burden of the AIDS epidemic, data also indicate that the HIV incidence rate has peaked in most countries,” according to the 2006 UNAIDS Report.
Yet, the UN itself has historically grossly exaggerated the world AIDS threat. For example, in 1998, the UN estimated that 12% of Rwandans age 15-49 were infected; now it says it’s only 3%. Whoops! On the other hand, other agencies had estimated a horrific 30% of Rwandans were infected. According to James Chin, a former UN official who made some of the earliest global HIV estimates, such concocted figures are “pure advocacy.”
Yet, former U.S. President Bill Clinton told conference attendees that “It’s difficult to imagine how the world can grow unless we tackle AIDS.” In fact, world population growth is fastest in areas hardest hit by AIDS.
As for the bizarre assertion that AIDS remains yet to be tackled, UNAIDS reports that 1.3 million people in low-income and middle-income countries received antiretroviral therapy in 2004, up from a fifth that number in 2001. Donated blood is now screened in even the poorest countries. The level of AIDS testing and education in poorer nations has skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, worldwide AIDS spending averaged $1.7 billion between 2002-2004, but reached $8.3 billion for 2005, and is slated to hit $10 billion in 2007. The size of that pie, and the desire to have a slice of it, is all you need to know to understand how the Toronto conference could attract a stunning 24,000 attendees who have been rightly labeled “the AIDS industry.” Nevertheless, insists UNAIDS, that $10 billion isn’t nearly enough.
No matter that even the current AIDS budget swamps spending on malaria and tuberculosis, which together kill about twice as many people annually as does AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy for AIDS cures no one, but it does cost relatively little in the Third World ($300-$1,200 per person per year), compared to North America. By contrast, TB can be cured with $65 of medicine.
Malaria in Africa and Asia can be prevented for a pittance – about $3 per home – by spraying DDT on the inside walls of houses, to protect everyone inside for a year. Yet, environmentalist activists and the European Union have essentially blocked its use in areas which have the greatest need for it.
Alas, these victims don’t have a politically correct disease. And, for that, they must die.
Policy Issues Relating to Energy, Environment,
& Natural Resources
Michael Fumento (Fumento@pobox.com) is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, an associate of the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, a columnist syndicated by Scripps-Howard, and the author of numerous books, including The
Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media & Partisan Politics (1990) and
BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing the World (2003).
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