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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Tuesday, July 09, 2002

    All Aids, All the Time: You would have to live in a cloister to be oblivious to all the HIV news out there this week. Every newspaper and every news service has stories on the subject. From new drugs, to the ignorance of nations and individuals, to hopes for a vaccine, to AIDS as class struggle. You can’t go to a news site anywhere without finding an article on HIV. Even JAMA is completely devoted to the virus this week.

    All of this attention isn’t because there has suddenly been some breakthrough in the treatment or prevention of the disease. It’s just that the HIV scientific community knows how to put on a whopper of a show. They’re having their world-wide AIDS conference this week in Barcelona, and they’ve attracted more media attention than even a Hollywood starlet would want.

    None of the news coming out of the meeting is worthy of all that attention. None of it is a breakthrough in treatment, and a lot of it is nothing more than hype to get more funding, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out yesterday:

    “Federal officials said they felt confident in reporting that the number of new H.I.V. infections has been stable in recent years, with an estimated 40,000 Americans becoming infected each year. Government officials estimate that 900,000 Americans are living with H.I.V. or AIDS. The number has increased by 50,000 since 1998, largely because advances in treatment have controlled the infection in many people, allowing some to go back to work and live longer.”

    If 40,000 are infected each year, shouldn't over 120,000 new infections have been logged since 1998? So why only 50,000? No one at the CDC really answers that question ever. The 40,000 a year is plucked almost out of thin air, and used for funding purposes. (And factoring in deaths doesn't help either. The total number of deaths for those three years is a decelerating 50,000. That still leaves 20,000 alleged infections unaccounted for.)

    HIV is a prime example of what goes wrong when a disease becomes politicized. Hype trumps science. We get stories like last week’s about AIDS destabilizing the world, and like the one Andrew Sullivan noted about alarming increases in the rate of infection. Meanwhile, the world becomes jaded by the alarmist cries, and soon no one listens anymore. It would be far better for their cause if the HIV researchers confined themselves to science and stopped trying to lobby the world.

    posted by Sydney on 7/09/2002 07:39:00 AM 0 comments


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