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.

Comments

  1. #1 Uncle Al
    August 12, 2006

    An incurable fatal disease whose transmission depended upon perseverative homosexual anal intercourse and needle sharing in addict shooting galleries was politically protected. Smallpox would have been vigorously quarantined lest it propagate. HIV vigorously propagated.

    The future we purchased at obscene price is now arrived. Do you want more of it or will you commit substantive acts to end it? “Saving Africa” is the singularly insanely stupid thing to do. Polio happily roars through Africa still. Legalization and monitoring of professional sex and recreational pharmaceuticals are rational acts. The first step in fixing a problem is identifying its real source.

    Teenage pregnancy results from fucking, said act being both normal and prevalent. The inexpensive and effective solution is contraception. 20+% of US births are out of wedlock. Is that so difficult to comprehend?

  2. #2 a cornellian
    August 12, 2006

    I know that argueing with you is futile, but according to a discover article several years ago the cause of the rapid spread in africa was infact due to people having multiple long hetrosexual relationships.
    (http://www.discover.com/issues/feb-04/features/why-aids-worse-in-africa/?page=1)

  3. #3 Marvin E. Kirsh
    August 13, 2006

    Dear Sir; Concerning AIDS, Darwin, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Collective problem solving methods,the new the old and change(It’s directions):
    I studied molcular biology many years. When I first read Darwin as an undergraduate,the topic was new and I learned from it. Later in graduate school I learned about protein structure-the genetic code -and last about reverse transcripttion. These things paint a coherent picture from which modern scientists can ask questions and research issues.
    If one starts from another perspective in his questions, how could the complex world come about from evolution-it also seems unfathomable to have happened but to project on verylarge time scales. Creationists do have to do this . Intelligent designers have to find some comflict with this molecular evolution scheme.
    I myself do not think nature is intelligently designed(joking). If one thinks linguistically and defines all things as content container-all the routes to all our behaviors in the same container with all of the possible choices in life – even if you wish to call the content (our behaviors -total daily activities and choices-infinite then the container is infnite. . A container is a container-if you say there is something beyond it -what is-is still part of the container as defined. What then can we say, but that our current views we have constructed from the ground up to be exactly objective,from study, though we are a part of the container itself. yet we are somehow unable to incorporate the two together-ourselves and the universe-external world. Somewhere, along the way inout progressions,though, we must make an adjustment in our orientations when our objectivity becomes obsessive. This has not happened and we are all suffering an especially violitous situation when we are experimenting with nature in the labs fields and medical places-we may have added things up past a line where the real world is. As I ask myself how this could happen?..my answers are extracted from philosophy and the physical sciences and can be summated with the fact that we employ a third objective, third party or point of reference that exists as neutral . We might agree on things -if its’ the same for you it might be the same for me -and maybe it’s the same for everyone-but with the asssumption that no two people or things are the same. Nietzsche relates this idea two centuries ago and even early Greek and Roman writings testify that that no mans’ experience is the same as another’s nor can be discerned from observation-the waters he tread are unknown but to himself. Nature appears to be intelligently designed, because we are intelligent and also have no way to say how intelligence evolved, and there is no way to know from the bits and pieces analysis of science.
    What are we then practicing -in the absence- of a big picture or truthful guiding philosophy -in biology/physics/medicine in nearly all aspects of our societies- -but actions based on historically inherited instinct -mankind in conflict with nature, the stranger, that at its’ roots, are his objective thoughts about himself and the world, viewing nature as separate from himself applied in the name of scientific objectivity. As all history records, as the Arians exported themselves around the world they committed terrible acts when ever beyond their home territorries in the midst of new strangers-evil acts in the eyes of his victums , but only bad appearing when engaged in conflicts within their normal company with known enemies.
    The bottom line is that we have crossed-transcended a neutral division in our scientific pursuits to be functioning on an instinct of itself. This implies with assumptions of likeness or equality of things,that we are tresspassing, crossing borders we did know exist,where assumed equalities and samenessess are really differences. Our activities are themselves autoimmunogenic in nature.
    As an example, if Einsteins equation is correct, but there is no third party to say that the speed of light is a constant-i.e every point in the universe is unequal tothe other, then we do not know what we released when we dropped the bombs on Japan-and may -even if we regret it from from a simple ethical perspective of the human suffering incurred, changed all points in space. We do not see ourselves yet in anyway as Arians with the same ( and equal at its’ very base) instinctual approach to our problems?
    In nature atomic energy can accumulate naturally but never reaches a critical mass because the water evaporates first-nature cannot tolerate release of energy from the glue that holds the atom together. In
    the designed bomb doors from which the water could have vented we anchored in place.
    We still do not know better today in our biology efforts when we seek to change things-dark areas in our knowledge which could change our (very honest and truthfull appearing) asseements, as we are constructing by addition our own painting of nature, are chronically avoided in our instinctual trespassing as we havent even the slightest footing much less scientific connection to establish a route. In current directions, recognition and acknowledgement of mistakes will be arrived at last and not first.
    This is a difficult fact for the most consciencious to accept. In what would appear as a few hours to the year, in mankinds social development, with the applications of a few bold discoveries and intellectual deductions(Newton-Einstein), we are busy dissasembling ourselves in an exactly intelligent manner as we question “this looks exactly intelligently designed-fit”.
    I can express this view, which seems intelligent, also to me, because I know the lesson -it is in part of the content of our environments -in old movies, science fiction, in the moralities and dangers of life taught us. yet we do not recognize it. What is the difference in hurting an animal for prey-food -even out of cruelity vs. destroying it for the purposes of communicating how their biology works. Just animals -are not just animals when treated this way for that purpose. I was once in that position, used mice as an undergraduate (as an aid where I knew little of the research) and a little bit in graduate school for my thesis – though I ultimatley purchased salmon sperm DNA from the fishing industry-drug companies. And lived a very pressured, degree oriented life with the same orientations and directions as anyone currently engaged in research, with an atruism about improving the life of others. From my current perspective, twenty years later, never having gained employment, living very indigently, nearly starved of the same life I lead then, it looks very obvious, the nature and causes of a changing immunological trouble world wide. Is not at the molecular level or especially sexual, but of border and line crossing, hot heads and hotheaded acts, both in thought and action, that how we spend our time-our past ime is tomorrows time-yesterday filters in to our sleep, filters into our dreams, how we live, accept, and indulge in a society flooded with technologies making life easier, the environment easy to change to suit ourselves: blind to a known lesson, philosophy, that goes in any direction the same(to dark or light)-but paints not the same hologram in eiter direction-a shrinking one of a reverse path one way vs a growing one .
    Cannot anyone,scientist or otherwise, come to know this fact..Charity starts at home and so does science where it started-‘if for you maybe for we’-but it cannot be added nor projected any further to an absolute, constructions of numbers as science are always insufficient to paint a total view.Nature can be anonomously cruel-an existing fact that we cannot change by “seeking” to change nature -the thought in itself is automunogenic-and breeding a real exisitng worldwide, material pathology, that can only take a reflection and a change in habit to surmount.

    http://www.marvinekirsh.com, http;//www.authorsden.com/marvinelikirsh

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