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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 13:26 GMT
Have we become complacent about Aids?

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

Figures released by the UN to mark World Aids Day suggest that another 5.3 million people will be infected this year. 36 million people already live with 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.

Have you become complacent? How has your country fared in the fight against HIV? What more could be done?

HAVE YOUR SAY 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

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

We are now suffering the consequences of pigeonholing this issue

Colin, UK
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

To Domini Connor, UK . Do you know that where I come from, AIDS has killed more people than any other illness or act of man! In South Africa, it is expected that at least 40% of the population is HIV + or has AIDS. A frightening number of these cases are new born babies and very young children! The reason for this is a severe lack of education. People suffering from poverty have not been told even the basics about AIDS, which I believe is far more important than a little dirty water. AIDS is not a pop stars disease!
Sarah, South Africa

In reply to Joe G, being an adult carries adult responsibilities. Do you really need the government to tell you what to do? Your health is too important to trust to them. Remember the treasury makes more from a pack of cigarettes than anyone else.
John, Austria

I really have to agree that ever since AIDS became a real threat in the 1980s the public health messages and general information about AIDS has dropped off significantly. What is needed in my view is a global advertising campaign (or at least national campaigns) to make people aware that it is still a big issue. When I was in my teens we had health ads on nearly daily for years (in NZ) and all my peers had a pretty good idea of the health risks involved with unprotected sex, needles etc and consequently could make life choices based on the information we had. Just make more people aware of it and what they can do. Young people these days just have no idea. No one hears about it, apart from isolated reports here and there. At least once a year the government should press this issue nationwide.
Simon, United Kingdom

Personally I have never been complacent about Aids

John B, UK
Personally I have never been complacent about Aids. I don't entirely see what we (collectively) are supposed to do about this. We can educate people about the risks but short of draconian legislation we can't force them not to take that risk. Rather than bleating "use a condom every time" perhaps we'd be better off encouraging people to have sex with fewer people.
John B, UK

Why should we be more worried about Aids since there are piles of problems to solve around the world, including hunger? Maybe Mother Nature is getting rid of the overburdening population of the world by the means of Aids.
Pratunam, Thailand

The good efforts of those trying to combat this horrifying disease are really hindered by the popular culture we now live in. I'm a young man and it seems that nowadays you are made to feel like a social outcast if you're not having sex and that it's actually quite cool to be having casual sex with many different people.
Stuart, Scotland

Sadly, a great number of women all over the world are infected as a result of their own husbands being unfaithful

Laura Porter, UK
Benjamin from Syria writes: "women have to be virgins until they get married". Since HIV is frequently passed from men to women, I'm not sure how "women" being virgins until married will help. If a man is already infected, he will infect his new wife. Sadly, a great number of women all over the world are infected as a result of their own husbands being unfaithful.
Laura Porter, UK

I feel very lucky to be a HIV positive woman living in the UK. I have received excellent care, particularly when I gave birth to my daughter just over a year ago. There is so much that can be done to improve the quality and quantity of life of those living with HIV. It is a shame that those living in poor countries cannot benefit. What a shame it has to be about money.
Susan Mitchell, UK

It seems truly incredible that yesterday the Government forced a new law through Parliament allowing the age of consent for homosexuals in Britain to be reduced from 18 to 16. Today we learn that experts are forecasting a 40% rise in the number of people diagnosed with HIV in England and Wales over the next four years. Just what sort of message does the Government think this gives?
Antony Perkins, UK

HIV and Aids don't spread because of permissiveness or lack of religious belief. To believe so is about as misguided as it is possible to be. They spread, in developing countries at least, because of poverty and ignorance. Anything that can be done to solve these problems is part of a solution to the Aids crisis.
Guy Matthews, UK

People have to be encouraged and educated

Richard, UAE
Controlling people through legislation or religion is not the answer to the problem of HIV/ Aids. Talk about a sledgehammer to crack a nut. People have to be encouraged and educated in the responsibilities related to being sexually active - practising safe sex. It is only by teaching people to take care of themselves and their partners that we can end the nightmare of HIV/ Aids.
Richard, UAE

Of course people have become complacent. The reason is that Aids became a 'fashionable' cause and like any fashion, it soon goes. The terrible truth is a million miles away from wearing little red bows.
Rob, UK

Aids is no longer a gay disease. In the UK last year more heterosexuals than homosexuals were diagnosed as HIV positive. It is just this sort of ridiculous attitude and misguided belief that cause the free spread of this awful disease.
Colin Smith, UK

As usual, the Aids debate centres on the wrong issue

Gordon Gibb, USA
As usual, the Aids debate centres on the wrong issue, a result of the perceived influence of the gay community and a generation of journalists who have unthinkingly fallen in with the popular political line. The problem is not Aids. Aids is simply the effect. The problem is the behaviour that spreads Aids. This world has fallen into the convenient "victim" mode, blaming natural consequences instead of taking responsibility for causes. Like teen pregnancy and other problems, behaviour is the changeable cause that must be addressed, whether it be illicit sexual relations or unsanitary medical practices. Is this "hate?" Don't be ridiculous. It is simply the truth.
Gordon Gibb, USA

Some people seem to not be able to get past their stigmas about where and how Aids originated. They seem to still want to push it aside because of the way it is transmitted but the fact is it's there and it must be dealt with.
Maggie Smith, USA

If diarrhoea killed pop stars and actors then the media would pay it more attention. Aids is a tragedy but it is a small scourge compared to lack of safe water, cancer, heart disease, malnutrition and war.
Domini Connor, UK

The situation is worsened by the fact that talking about sex is taboo in India

Sonali, India
Why is it always the "government's" fault? Why compare AIDS to TB? Yes, people have become complacent about AIDS. It's here, and "I'm" not dead why worry? It is not the government's problem it is the citizens problem.
Joe D., USA

I can't understand how anyone can be complacent about AIDS? But then I live in Swaziland which has one of the highest number of HIV+ people in the world. Yet even here there is denial and complacency amongst many people. I organised an art exhibition on the theme of AIDS at my gallery which has run for a month. Interesting to see the public's reaction..(the public is half local and half overseas visitors)1 out of 20 would take the time to look around at the paintings, photos and messages plus they would give a small donation to the Salvation Army who we were raising funds for. The rest spent a minute in the room, took the free condoms, AIDS ribbons and stickers and left looking bored. Most foreign visitors coming to Africa want to see the Big 5 and play golf, they have no interest or compassion in the subject. And many others who live here bury their heads in the sand whilst funerals increase at a horrendous rate. I'd like to see every single person on the planet DO something to help, however small the effort. Don't look the other way, or get bored as if it does not affect you. It is affecting all of us.
Aleta Armstrong, Swaziland

Why is so much more money spent on AIDS research than there is on Cancer when so many more people suffer from Cancer? I take my hat off to all those working to help AIDS sufferers but I fear that the motive is not compassion but rather an effort to support a lifestyle which is threatened by this disease.
Gareth Sinclair, UK

Complacent? No absolutely not as someone living with HIV I have a responsibility not only to myself but to the welfare of my partner. I am increasingly disturbed by this and other major governments lack of initiative on the subject of HIV awareness and education, from general campaigns to sex education in school which I may say is severely lacking. Increasingly the campaign has been headed by charities with the minimum amount of funding, charities which struggle to provide the quality of service which should be all accounts be available to all as standard. The western world really does need to get a grip on the causes of the spread of HIV, education is out there probabley right at the top of the list, yet when was the last government you can remember on the subject aside from the badly made and scare tatics employed by the 80's AIDS 'iceberg' campaign.
Dunkan MacLean, Manchester - England

I don't see how it's even remotely possible to become complacent about AIDS. In India however there seems to be an almost lazy kind of indifference about AIDS especially in the Government. I don't see any concrete drives here to make people aware of how big a problem AIDS already is. It's almost as if they are waiting for it to assume epidemic proportions before they decide to do something. The situation is worsened by the fact that talking about sex is taboo in India. The general belief is that talking about sex will encourage the young into 'indecent behaviour'. The real effect would be to save lives. The other major problem is the stigma that AIDS brings with it. Children are abandoned because they have contracted AIDS from the mother. With this level of ignorance it's hardly surprising that AIDS is as big a problem it is today.
Sonali, India

Why concentrate on Aids? What a stupid comment, when 500,000 children died of this awful disease this year alone. The fact is the world is rich enough to vaccinate the entire population against TB, but as yet there is no vaccine to prevent Aids, only drugs to combat the symptoms, and contain the disease. Drugs that are available if the pharmaceutical giants weren't so greedy.
Pat Vincent, UK

I'm an Indian expat in Rwanda, a country with more than 11 percent of HIV-positive cases. The Rwandan Government is trying its best to create awareness about AIDS and prevent the disease. Recently the American Embassy in Kigali conducted an essay competition for students and journalists on the topic: "What strategies should the Rwandan government follow to create awareness about AIDS and prevent the disease?" People in Rwanda are quite aware of the danger of the disease. What is more important is behavioural change. Since Rwanda is predominantly a catholic country, the Catholic Church should play a very key role in controlling the spread of the disease. The Church should bid bye to its conservative belief system and impracticable values and ask the faithful to use condoms and practise safe sex.
Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda / India

We should stop talking about 'safe sex', and pick up the courage to aggressively preach and encourage chastity

Pascal Bessong, South Africa
We are told that about 90% of infections with HIV is by the sexual route. At the same time we are told that condom use is effective against contracting HIV, and more over, that the use of condoms has skyrocketed in the past five years. What I don't understand is why is the level of new infections is competing favourably with the increase in the use of condoms? In my opinion, a problem has to be solved radically. We should stop talking about 'safe sex', and pick up the courage to aggressively preach and encourage chastity in and out of marriage as the best solution to the HIV/AIDS palaver. If not we would be behaving like the ostrich which hides its head in the sand and exposes its backside. Whether we like it or not HIV is laughing at us because our world has become a world of sex.
Pascal Bessong, South Africa (Cameroonian)

I find this AIDS vs. TB issue raised here to be rather disturbing. If numbers of people affected is all that matters then maybe money for research into CJD should be redirected to TB too. After all, current estimates predict "only" about 100 thousand deaths in the UK, all of which could have been prevented with a sensible vegetarian diet! Did you eat beef between 1980 and 1996, Mr Nixon?
Chris, Australia

I don't dispute Peter's views from the UK on TB being a bigger killer worldwide than AIDS. But its no good having a go at Liz Taylor. At least she is doing something about AIDS as she has lost many friends to this disease. Criticising her for not putting the same effort into combating the spread of TB does nobody any good. Why don't you do something?
Dermot, UK

I just found out that a close relative of mine does NOT have HIV. I can't even begin to tell you the relief - no, the joy - that that person feels. It's as if a stay of execution has been granted. The two other people that knew about the situation - myself included - were so emotionally involved that we also felt as if we were playing a game with death. Nobody will ever know the trauma involved if never faced with such a situation. If you want to stay alive, let your head do the thinking, not your hormones. Drink less and wear a condom. It's your life.
L. Hill, USA

In answer to the question of AIDS v Tuberculosis, the reason to concentrate efforts on Aids is because it is a wholly preventable disease. It is quite true to say that ignorance of infection methods and sources as well people's unwillingness to be positive about their HIV status is dangerous. A little publicity can go a long way.
And surely it is worth preventing the 3m killer becoming a 30m killer?
Colin, UK

From a personal point of view, I have become complacent and don't take precautions when urged. It is the loss of rational control and the ascendancy of emotions that frightens me. I can repeat by heart the British Medical Encyclopaedia's definition of AIDS and consider myself to be very well informed on the actual state of vaccines, etc. Nevertheless, I do lose rational control. I think the only way of preventing myself repeating this foolish behaviour (yes, I admit it myself) is to meet victims and shock myself into this habit.
Micky, Germany

Young people ought to be encouraged to have a free and frank debate on safer sex and reproductive health so that they learn how people get Aids.

Albert Devakaram, India
The fact that six youths below the age of 25 are infected with HIV every minute, the world over, is terribly shocking. In countries where Aids is an epidemic, we are told, about half the sexually active girls in the 15 to l9 age group see no risk in contracting the disease. This only shows how complacent we are towards Aids. This is partly due to ignorance and either insufficient or no knowledge as far as women are concerned. For example, women are not educated or poorly briefed on their reproductive systems or the dangers of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Young people ought to be encouraged to have a free and frank debate on safer sex and reproductive health so that they learn how people get Aids. This way they also get educated on how to shield themselves from this disease.
Albert Devakaram, India

I believe Mr. Peter Nixon couldn't be more right in expressing the fact that TB should be a more serious concern than Aids. Not to sound homophobic, but the fact remains that the majority of the people who acquire Aids are those with irresponsible sexual lifestyles.
Guru Shenoy, USA

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

Why are we concentrating on Aids?

Peter Nixon, England
There is no doubt that the modern drugs available have made some people complacent about Aids - but why are we concentrating on Aids? In the next ten years 3 million will die from Aids and related problems but in the same period 30 million will die from tuberculosis. Where are the celebrities of stage and screen pleading for more money for tuberculosis research? Is their dis-interest based on self-interest in a profession where a high proportion are high risk lifestylers? Bob Geldof activated people to Feed the World and he richly deserves his honours for that. It's time for Elizabeth Taylor to stand up for the 30 million who will die of tuberculosis. Get your priorities right.
Peter Nixon, England

I'm not sure whether young adults have become complacent but at the same time, we're drinking more and living in a more sexualised culture. I'm sure that many people who when sober would certainly use condoms are having drunken one night stands and not really thinking about safe sex. Certainly my own age group, who were becoming sexually active when Aids was becoming a well known issue, are well versed in the practice of safe sex.
Mark B, UK

Until you know someone with Aids you do not realise the full extent of what it does to the individuals involved and their families. Therefore you become complacent about the risks and do not give them the consideration they deserve. It is the "it can not happen to me" syndrome that is typical of most modern thinking.
T. Oad, England

It is time for the Government to launch another massive advertising campaign

Joe G, UK
I cannot remember seeing any large-scale Government advertising about HIV for many, many years. I think this is scandalous. It is time for the Government to launch another massive advertising campaign, along the lines of the one that ran when the Aids virus first emerged in the 1980's. Then, we had Government ministers appearing on youth TV shows and saturation advertising. I even remember one minister demonstrating on TV how to put a condom on using a banana! Why can't the current Government show similar levels of commitment?
Joe G, UK

AIDS is a time bomb sitting under the permissive society. Yesterday yet more permissive legislation was forced through Parliament and today fears are growing of a new AIDS epidemic. Cause and effect. If nothing is wrong anymore and you abandon moral absolutes, then you will be unable to get people to change their behaviour. Why should they? They have an 'absolute right' to do as they please - which is the cause of the problem. The road to hell is paved with political correctness!
Ken Beach, Germany

I was born in Syria. The problem of HIV/ Aids is rare because of religious values. People don't have sexual relations before marriag and women have to be virgins until they get married. Religion is not bad after all.
Benjamin, Syria

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01 Dec 00 | World
Events mark Aids 'catastrophe'
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