This year marks 25 years since the identification of AIDS as a disease, and Seed is going with blanket coverage. The latest print issue is devoted to AIDS coverage, there’s a temporary group blog covering the International AIDS conference, and this week’s Ask a ScienceBlogger is AIDS-related:
To what extent do you worry about AIDS, either with respect to yourself, your children, or the world at large?
As this is very much outside my area of expertise, I don’t expect to have much of anything to say on this topic this week, but I’ll give a partial answer to the question below the fold.
On a personal level, AIDS really isn’t on the list of worries. I’m happily married, so my own days of promiscuous unprotected sex are well behind me (not that there were any), and my children are as yet hypothetical. I don’t use IV drugs, I don’t have medical problems that require frequent blood transfusions, and I don’t work in a situation where I might be exposed to AIDS-infected blood or other fluids (unlike Dr. Charles). It’s just not a concern for me.
The thing about AIDS is, other than a few whack jobs who continue to deny reality, we know what causes it, how it’s transmitted, and how to prevent transmission. At least for us well-off Westerners, it’s pretty easy to reduce the risk of getting AIDS to a level below the worry threshold. Unlike, say, the bird flu, or some other airborne disease. And for well-off Westerners at least, the disease is no longer an automatic sentence to a miserable death in a few years.
So, again, to what extent do I worry about AIDS for myself or my immediate family? I don’t, and for someone who came of age in the 80’s, that’s really saying something. I graduated high school in 1989, and as Janet notes, AIDS cast a long shadow over the late 1980’s.
A lot of the comments thus far, and the coverage to come, will focus on the catastrophe of AIDS in Africa and Asia, and other parts of the developing world, and I don’t want to minimize those tragedies. I don’t have anything remotely adequate to say about what a miserable situation that is, and I’ll leave the suggestions of policy changes and research directions to people who actually know what they’re talking about.
But it’s worth taking a short moment to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of the doctors, public health officials, and educators who have brought things to the point where AIDS, the great looming plague of my youth, is not a significant source of worry, at least for affluent Americans like myself.
And let’s also applaud, encourage, and most importantly fund the efforts of the people who are working to bring that same security to the rest of the world.