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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Aids: Will the UN declaration make a difference?

The UN's General Assembly has adopted a landmark declaration of commitment to fight the global Aids epidemic at a meeting in a special three-day session to piece together a global strategy on Aids.

The number of HIV and Aids cases in the world is still rising, despite efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

While most developing countries are still struggling to contain the spread of HIV, research in developed nations shows that young people are becoming complacent about the risks of HIV from unprotected sex.

Will the UN declaration make a difference in the fight against Aids? How has your country fared in the fight against HIV? What more could be done?

This debate is now closed. Your comments:

I was a volunteer for the AIDS Support Network in California. When you watch someone die by degrees from the Aids virus it is not possible to be complacent. To say that this disease is "fashionable" or that it's for "gays and drug-users" shows a level of pure ignorance that beggars belief.
Amanda Bradley, Seattle, Washington.

There is nothing mysterious about third World citizens dying in great numbers from Aids

Jon Livesey, USA
The fact that Aids is so prevalent in the Third World should tell us something about the inadequacies of all Third World health education and medical care. There is nothing mysterious about third World citizens dying in great numbers from Aids. If we treat Aids in the Third World as a separate problem, and attack Aids without doing something about basic public hygiene, health education and medical care delivery, then we will simply end up keeping Aids patients alive to die of some other completely preventable disease. We have to recognize that Third World government simply is not working. It is not delivering basic healthcare to its citizens.
Jon Livesey, USA

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the world. We the United Nations have hereby declared that we will wring or hands in unison at the tragedy that is AIDS. We collectively wish without conditions that it would just go away and that the nasty pharmaceutical companies would just give us all their proprietary drugs in the meantime. Thank you for listening".
AJ, England

With respect to western countries, if you contract Aids then it is your problem. People have been provided with information about tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and Aids yet they still engage in behaviour which places their well-being at risk. The only Aids fight left is to allow developing nations the resources to inform their population about the disease and to provide them with preventative measures such as condoms. Oddly, many people die of cancer yet there's not a campaign to supercharge the research effort on that disease. With respect to Aids publicity and pop stars trumpeting the cause, Dr Duncan of the UK has hit the issue dead on.
Vic, USA

There's nothing fashionable about a disease which threatens over 5 million South Africans

Andy B, UK
Dr Duncan Campbell - There's nothing fashionable about a disease which threatens over 5 million South Africans, and up to one in eight people in some countries, almost all of whom are heterosexual. Your bigoted views suggest you think that Aids is a problem mainly for a few "gay" celebrities, rather than the single largest disease threat to the human population. Now that's complacency.

In all our so-called modern enlightenment we seem to overlook some basic facts. If you have sexual intercourse with someone who carries the HIV virus you risk contracting it yourself. Yet in spite of this we consider it an automatic right to have intercourse with anyone (consenting) we choose and for HIV positive people to keep the fact a secret. Although monogamy is badly out of fashion these days, at least it doesn't spread diseases like wildfire.
John B, UK

Call me cynical but I'd be rather more optimistic if the drug companies actually had a financial incentive to find a cure - continual treatment is obviously far more profitable than a cure, let alone a vaccine. Anyone remember how a cure for most ulcer cases came out but not until just after the patents on the acid control drugs expired.
Malcolm McMahon, York, UK

Having lived in four different countries I can easily say that the UK is the most complacent when it comes to prevention of HIV infection. I have not been in a country where so many teenagers have unprotected sex, but at the same time are so afraid of really talking about the consequences of having unprotected sex. Time for the UK youth to grow up - they're well behind a large part of Europe.
Eric, Sweden

It's the old "Oh, it won't happen to me" argument again

Dave Strong, UK
The trouble lies with the fact that people seem to think that only gay men and junkies can contract this disease. The fact that NO ONE is safe from this tragic illness seems to be lost on the majority of heterosexual people throughout the world. It's the old "Oh, it won't happen to me" argument again. Also, the fact that most media seems to focus on "sexy" advertising and that magazines wilfully promote promiscuous lifestyles as acceptable does not help either. It's time everyone started to take a more responsible attitude towards sex - it is not being prudish, it is being safe and will help save lives!
Dave Strong, UK

I was appalled when a close friend of mine recently remarked that we were living in a post-Aids era. Complacency in the UK today is not helped with the proportionally higher profile of Variant CJD in the media. Although this remains a truly traumatic disease, its prevalence to date in the UK pales in comparison to that of HIV contracted each day, each hour in this country. And yet in which disease does the British public's awareness and fear lie?
Kelsey, U.K.

Aids, Aids, Aids - the great lion who is swallowing our young generation. We will lose our energetic young people despite the government's steps towards educating people about the great lion. Much time and resources I think are needed to tackle the catastrophe in our developing countries.
Lesian Melamai Mollel, Dar es Salaam

Governments around the world should provide condoms and reproductive education to everyone

Linda, Canada
I am dismayed that Aids receives so much press that rarely focuses on sexual behaviour. Governments around the world should provide condoms and reproductive education to everyone. Witch doctors instilling fear in the superstitious that Aids is black magic is just plain silly. This issue does not require more drugs, it needs to be addressed for what it is, a sexually transmitted disease. Prevention is the key here.
Linda, Canada

What surprises me is that educated people in the West fail to understand the root cause of Aids, which is illegitimate sex. Instead of promoting values and morals among young people and teens, they are recommending safe sex. This is nothing more than beating around the bush. Address the real problem and don't get side-tracked. Promote institutions like marriage and concept of family. Trust me, you will get a lot better results than asking people to continue in error.
Qasim Ali, Saudi Arabia

Yes, we have become complacent. Why? Because all the news are familiar. Someone died. It could be some stranger, a Hollywood star or someone we know well. We all know getting Aids means there is no cure. Sadly, this thought is at the back of our minds. We think that it will never happen to us no matter how many promiscuous relationships we have and the number of intravenous drugs we use. We have to continue announcing this message and that is "Aids can kill". Let this message not be "sweetened" and let us not give false hopes that Aids is like any other diseases which can be cured by the giving of medicine.
June Ho, Malaysia

Australia has always had a strong policy of public discussion and information campaigns on a whole range of issues

Grant Regan, Australia
In Australia, we have been quite successful in combating the Aids epidemic through public education, open discussion of safe-sexual practices for heterosexual and homosexual couples, and a long-standing programme of needle-exchange and safe-injecting rooms, as well as a largely free or subsidised health system. Australia is clear proof that such policies, and an unblinkered acknowledgement of reality, works. It is ridiculous and scandalous for the Catholic Church and certain Islamic nations to argue otherwise. They do so at the peril of their followers and their people. The fear here in Australia is complacency, but Australia has always had a strong policy of public discussion and information campaigns on a whole range of issues.
Grant Regan, Sydney, Australia

In my part of world, it is not an issue of people growing complacent, people simply have not been informed enough about the virus. Campaigns are not vigorous enough and mostly limited to the urban centres. Ads on the TV reach a few lucky people in the urban areas and towns. Unfortunately, majority of the population live in the rural areas who have limited or no access to these modern gadgets of communication. Governments would have to adopt an integrated communications approach to be able to reach majority of the people. If this is not done, I am afraid the problem will intensify and promises from world leaders would be nothing more than rhetoric.
Mahama Braimah, Ghana

With no HIV/sexual health strategy, things in the UK are going to get worse. As for unprotected sex amongst gay men, how can anyone risk HIV infection just to have a bit of fun? I believe that gay men in the UK are too complacent, me included, about HIV. Until we get equality in the law, then we can't adequately address inequalities in our society, including effective and relevant sex education for young gay men. As for those older gay men that practice unsafe sex, please think again - I lost my best friend five years ago, and that pain is still there for me and of course his family. Do what you want but take responsibility.
Chris, UK

Cancer claims far many more lives a year than Aids yet Aids gets special consideration by the UN

Ken, Holland/UK
Aids can largely be avoided. Becoming complacent is hardly the issue. Cancer claims far many more lives a year than Aids yet Aids gets special consideration by the UN. If as much effort was put into a cure for cancer as is put into finding a cure for Aids, cancer would not be the problem it now is. 100 times more resources are devoted to Aids than cancer. We have our priorities skewed for political reasons. Yet again the politicians have messed up.
Ken, Holland/UK

The fight against Aids seems to be misfocussed.The spread of the disease is as much a social dilemma as it is a medical problem. The prime causative factor is illicit sexual behaviour, which in turn is caused by a breakdown of the religious and family institutions, and a systemic decay in society's moral fabric. No goal of HIV prevention would succeed unless it also aimed at striking at, and rectifying, these root causes.
Dr Faisal Aziz, Pakistan

Aids? One gets the impression that Aids is an African disease and only affects Africans. Last time it was the funeral of young Johnson in South Africa. Does it mean there are no European, Asian or other races dying of Aids? Let us fight Aids together but at the same time give a fair coverage. The African situation appears to be far over exaggerated and mostly by people who are not Africans. Give us a fair deal!
Chibamba Douty, Zambian student in Brunei Darussalam

The Brazilian Aids program includes both prevention and treatment

Regina Rodrigues, Brazil
The Brazilian Aids program includes both prevention and treatment. Both are necessary to try to reduce the number of deaths. We should focus in prevention, but we cannot just ignore the people which already have the disease - they need treatment. There are the cultural aspects - sometimes it is harder to convince people to use condoms, mainly in Catholic countries.
Regina Rodrigues, Brazil

Complacent or not the fact is many people are suffering and dying of Aids each day. Therefore, governments and drug companies should stop blaming and begin co-operating with each other to help alleviate arguably one of the cruellest diseases of our time.
Eric Johnson, USA

All you can see is beer and cigarette posters

Henry S Mpunga, Tanga, Tanzania.
In my village, where Aids is claiming the lives of young people, there is not one single poster about Aids. Half the story has not yet been heard in Tanga or Dar es Salaam. In the biggest city in Tanzania it is rare to find posters concerning this dreaded disease, all you can see is beer and cigarette posters!
Henry S Mpunga, Tanga, Tanzania.

Here in Japan, there is still a strong belief that Aids is a foreigner's disease and therefore cannot affect the Japanese. With such a mindset still in existence, there is no doubt that despite the efforts of the UN and other world bodies to conquer the disease, there is still substantial room for eliminating stigma surrounding it.
Suzanne McMillan, Japan, UK

First, to say that the spread of Aids will be halted by issuing condoms to prostitutes in sub-Saharan Africa is unrealistic and short-sighted. It's a far more complex problem than that. I think that developed countries have definitely become complacent about Aids. We have drug therapies that, for the most part, are readily available and hold the disease at bay. We've forgotten that it's still an incurable disease and will eventually kill you.

As for Third World countries, billions of dollars can go into these places, but if it doesn't go to education and prevention - we've done nothing. We can also send an endless supply of Aids drugs, but if they're not administered and take correctly, the result can be worse than if no drugs were given at all. Yes, we've become complacent in the "modern" world. In the poorest, hardest-hit countries, well, the truth is we're all pretty removed from what's happening there. To many of us, it's just a segment on the evening news.
Julia, USA

I became infected in a San Francisco in the mid-80's and now have to take very expensive drug therapies. The message is clear: PRACTISE SAFE SEX!
Brian Kelly, USA

If people are serious about Aids then they should be asking for free condoms

Boiki, USA, Botswana
If people are serious about Aids then they should be asking for free condoms; they should stop blaming drug companies because of their immoral ways. Let them reap the benefits of unsafe sex. The worst thing is that people indulge in unprotected sex with the knowledge that they are risking infection.
Boiki, USA, Botswana

Foreign Nationals entering the USA as permanent residents HAVE to be tested too. I think that real cases should be shown on TV, ie how it affects real families, how - even with drugs - your life is hell etc. Only hard truths hit home - real people, real sad stories. As for developing countries, we have to find a solution, we have to.
Fran Card, USA

I was never concerned (at a personal level that is). I learnt the rules and applied them.
Alex, Gibraltar

Complacency about HIV/AIDS is not limited to the developed world

Peter, Netherlands
Complacency about HIV/AIDS is not limited to the developed world - it is precisely the lackadaisical attitude in sub-Saharan Africa that is causing the spread there. What if African countries imposed a legal obligation on prostitutes to use condoms?
Peter, Netherlands

It appears the message of aids is falling on deaf ears as some juveniles, especially in developed nations, take it as a joke. Why don't you send them abroad to work with the afflicted!
Ukimwe, Kenya

It seems to me that our priorities are all screwed up

Tom Byrne, USA
It still amazes me that people die by the thousands from one of the most easily preventable diseases on Earth. We sit back and blame huge drug companies and western governments for AIDS when a $3 piece of rubber can reduce your risk of infection by 95 percent. It seems to me that our priorities are all screwed up.
Tom Byrne, USA

I think that compulsory testing should be introduced to take away the stigma that surrounds the disease. The fact that insurance companies frown upon people who get tested is disgraceful. I got tested, not because I had exposed myself to a seedy lifestyle, but because when I met my recent partner I wanted to make sure we both had a clean bill of health. The stress of going through the test was awful as there is always doubt, but the relief was immense. However until mandatory testing is introduced, many people will continue to sleep around, infecting partners and continuing the ignorance that surrounds this terrible disease.
Anon, UK

As a 24-year-old gay male, it is terrifying to see how many peers are now having unsafe sex. A culture of complacency seems to have developed around the issue in the West. The fear that people originally had of the disease in the 80s has gone. Whether this is due to developments in drug combinations that can slow down the deteriorating effects of HIV, or whether many people, younger and older, are just more willing to take risks with their health, I don't know. Either way, the old scare tactics in advertising are simply no longer effective in promoting safe sex. A new way of thinking on this issue, and many other public health promotional issues, needs to be developed.

As for the issue of Aids/HIV in the developing world, it is about time that western governments did more to allow these countries to acquire the necessary drugs and preventative measures at a reasonable cost. We must ensure that medicine does not become just another commodity for multi-nationals. After the legacy of colonialism we left them, surely this is the least we can do.
Eli, UK

Why is it that we always harp on about safer sex when we all know that the only really safe way is not to have sex?
Iain Mulady, UK

Perhaps publicity should focus on victims' experiences

Andrew, Britain
Some years ago I worked in a Gulf country which imposed compulsory HIV tests on all new expatriate workers. One time a British engineer came out to work with us, his family was due to follow shortly. He failed his test and was deported. Now, whenever I find myself tempted, I just try to remember the look on his face and imagine making that awful phone call home. It's worked so far. Perhaps publicity should focus on victims' experiences.
Andrew, Britain

There is a whole generation of people now regularly enjoying sexual encounters who were not aware of the 'Don't die of Ignorance' campaign of the late 80's. Gay men in pubs and clubs are still bombarded regularly with information about the risks of contracting HIV and AIDS. While it is true that there are many more gay men today having unprotected sex than a few years ago, they are making a positive decision to do this having considered all of the risks and perhaps having seen close friends die. Straight people, on the other hand, just do not consider there is a risk at all or are not aware of it. We are now suffering the consequences of pigeonholing this issue.
Colin, UK

AIDS is a disease which became fashionable because lots of celebrities shouted about it because lots of their gay and drug-using friends suffered from it. There are many other incurable diseases which are not fashionable, but still kill many people each year. There are also many people who die from curable conditions, but celebrities do not have friends who die from these diseases, so they do not become fashionable.
Dr Duncan Campbell, UK

There seems to be a growing opinion that living with HIV controlled by modern drugs is OK. Yes, it is certainly better than dying from AIDS if you are infected but it is still a lot worse than not being infected. Living with the physical consequences, not to mention social stigma, of getting infected is a daily struggle for 1000's of people. Let's stop forgetting about them as if they had been 'cured' and get back to a message of prevention being better than a cure.
Peter, UK

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See also:

01 Dec 00 | World
Events mark Aids 'catastrophe'
25 Jun 01 | Americas
UN opens landmark Aids debate
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