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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Is enough being done to prevent Aids?
We discussed Aids and HIV in our phone-in programme, Talking Point.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has described Aids as a "war against humanity".
Ending the International Aids Conference in Barcelona, he called for an end to the stigma of HIV, especially for children orphaned by the disease.
The number of children who have lost one or both parents to Aids is set to double to almost 25m by 2010.
Activists are urging the US and other rich countries to commit $10bn a year to the UN's global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
Created in 2001, the fund has so far secured just $2.8bn.
A vaccine is still far from assured, although the US biotechnology company VaxGen hopes one could be available by 2005.
What did you think of Nelson Mandela's speech? What needs to be done to combat the spread of Aids? Will the latest treatment reach poorer nations?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Here in Switzerland children of 12 are told all about Aids and openly discuss both heterosexual and homosexual sexual practices. They also handle condoms and even practise putting them on to bananas. Hopefully this openness leads to the future avoidance of many sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, as well as perhaps preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Jane, London, UK
HIV/Aids is something that although people all over the world think they understand, few really do. Here in America, politicians and decision makers are aware that it exists in mass numbers but don't really see the destruction and damage it is causing worldwide. These people have never been surrounded by people infected or seen the villages in Africa where the disease runs rampant. Bills and laws may be passed but in no way are the powerful nations doing nearly as much as they are capable of doing for HIV/AIDS and many other of the world's problems. It is a great gap in understanding that we are far from bridging and I don't think we will be getting close for a long, long time.
The HIV virus is a western world conspiracy. The western world should accept their responsibility that the HIV virus(if real) was manufactured by them and they masterminded is spread. Their assertion that an infected African green monkey bit a human being is as ridiculous as it sounds. It is rare for an African monkey to attack humans.
I have heard about the International Aids Conference in Barcelona. If people want to combat prejudiced attitudes against people then they should start in Spain. Spain doesn't even allow people with HIV in to the country (as some HIV+ people who wanted to speak at the conference found out)
My greatest wish is that governments (especially my own) realise that there is a huge problem. Instead of the world spending vast amounts on defence (SA R43 billion) that they should spend some on the treatment of Aids. Possibly if the drug companies and their shareholders had to spend some time in a rural hospital they might have some compassion for the suffering, the dying and the hundreds of thousands orphans. I'm not asking for the governments to stop spending on defence, but to get some perspective on the effects on Aids and what its effects will eventually have on the world.
Is enough being done to combat Aids? What more do you want to be done? Money, research, intergovernmental cooperation - it is all being done already. We know what spreads the disease - casual sex and IV drug use. Unless society is willing to stop both, Aids will depopulate more continents than Africa. It is just a matter of time. It isn't polite to suggest restricting sex, people call you prudish and anyone against IV drug use is called heartless. So, no, not enough is being done. Or, at least, what will work is not being done.
It's interesting to note that there's a lot more work going into finding a vaccine, than a cure. A vaccine would be more profitable, but a cure is more urgently needed by those already infected.
Jerry, Texas, USA
If HIV is a behavioural disease, so is cancer. It's largely caused by unhealthy diet and lifestyle, so cancer victims and their relatives shouldn't be so sniffy and unsympathetic about AIDS victims.
Probably need to help more, but also to establish and enforce guaranteed procedures to slow the spread.
Keep in mind that the best help is education. As long as people behave irresponsibly they are a major part of the problem. It is usually a mistake to simply throw money at problems, although this is also usually the practice employed.
The world is not doing enough to combat Aids, and neither will the latest treatment reach poor nations. HIV/Aids will continue being viewed as a disease/burden of poor nations only and therefore rich nations will do nothing to help in the effort.
Considering that Africans who are HIV+ have a much lower life expectancy than HIV+ people in rich countries, due mainly, to poor nutrition, why doesn't the international community subsidise the cost of immune-boosting multivitamins and make them available to poor people in Africa?
What is so sickening about ex-President Clinton attending the conference is that, as President, he signed legislation that bans ALL HIV-positive people from entering the US. This means that people who are struggling with HIV/Aids can (are often are!) arrested at US airports, handcuffed and then deported like criminals.
Why doesn't the world or at least the western world work together with African traditional doctors to find a cure for this Aids virus? It is very possible to find a cure within split seconds here in Africa. Improve conditions so that the poverty rate can be reduced, close down your arms industries so that war can no longer be made in Africa. Buy our raw materials fairly so that all can benefit.
Nelson Mandela did very little about Aids during his single five-year term as President of South Africa. I wonder if he is now active on the issue due to a sense of guilt. His speech is eight years late.
One way to substantially reduce the increase in the number of cases, would be for the Pope and the Catholic church to change its mind on contraception.
I find it very interesting that Clinton is so vociferous in his war on Aids now, but not when he was president. Why did he not commit the money needed when he was in office?
The world seems to spend more time talking about Aids and HIV and pointing accusing fingers than actually doing something about it. If Aids is real, then it is here to stay unless we act now - everybody, not just governments and international organisations. After all, international organisations don't catch Aids, the individual does.
Dunkan MacLean, Manchester UK
Other, less expensive ways exist to reduce the spread of HIV in these countries. A very effectual way is, in areas of high prostitution and migrant workforces, to clear up any other genital infections quickly. Another genital infection (herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea etc) increases a risk of passing or contracting HIV by up to 200%.
I do wonder if, in ten years time we will say the same about Aids in Africa as we said about the Holocaust - how on earth could we allow it to happen? This may not be genocide by intent but surely it must rate as genocide by neglect?
Well done to BBC Radio 1 for its current high profile promotion of condoms and sexual health in general. They're targeting the right audience - young people who didn't see the 1980s adverts about Aids and who now need to know the risks and consequences of unsafe practices, and how to take action either to prevent infection or seek urgent treatment from health professionals. Young people respect messages from the Radio 1 presenters, with whom they can identify, and this is an important part of the HIV and STI prevention message. Older people also need to wake up to the dangers of their own complacency and embarrassment too. We have to remember that there is no cure for HIV/Aids, nor will there be in the short term at least!
What you have to look at with Aids and HIV is the long term. It is spreading in Third World countries at a rate that no other disease ever has, and a lot of this is to do with education, but also stigma, prejudice and religion. If something is not done it will be too late and it will devastate these countries. What we are seeing now is an unfolding global tragedy, which can only get worse unless action and political leadership is taken now.
The US taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of paying for drugs for Aids sufferers all over the world. Aids/HIV is a behavioural disease (except for the case of transfusion victims). Those who CHOOSE abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage have no need to fear. Those who CHOOSE to engage in sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use have plenty of reasons to fear. People still have not admitted to themselves that sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use is the over-riding cause of Aids/HIV.
I'm afraid anonymous of the USA is right. Aids really is a behavioural disease, like syphilis before it. Intemperance in sexual behaviour, over the long term, is every bit as harmful and self-destructive as intemperance in alcohol or drugs. They will all destroy your health and mental well-being. Will the poor of Africa get these new drugs? I doubt it. The pharms companies make drugs to make money, not for humanitarian reasons.
Since there are not enough simple and inexpensive drugs such as vitamins or tetracycline eye ointment, available for a few pence a patient, for millions in the third world, the idea that phenomenally expensive (in comparison) AIDS drugs will be found and distributed is a forlorn fantasy.
Sean Ellis, UK
To Sean Ellis, UK: It is ridiculous to say that the
Church is giving lethal advice
to people. If they are infected
through their lifestyle, then I find
it most unlikely that they are
straining their ears for Church
approval. Just as the answer to
lung cancer is not low-tar cigarettes,
so the answer to HIV is not the
less than reliable condom.
Promoting 'safe sex' only encourages
promiscuity and decreases our
ability to say no when we should.
Let's keep things in perspective. Aids is not even close to the worst epidemic in centuries. Infantile diarrhoea, poor sanitation, and poor nutrition kill many more people worldwide than Aids. In modern countries, AIDS ranks well behind heart disease, cancer, and accidents as a major killer. Funding should go to where it is needed most and that is not Aids research.
How long will it take before we can be sure that an Aids vaccine is safe? And if an Aids vaccine were available, who would volunteer to take it? We know that we can all get measles or chickenpox, but Aids is transmitted through bodily fluids during sex, blood transfusions or via contaminated needles. Most people in Europe and the USA are not at risk and would not need the vaccine. An Aids vaccine would then be appropriate only in developing and third world countries. Do they want it? Who will pay for it? Is the vaccine appropriate for all forms of Aids? These are the questions that need to be answered now!
As an HIV+ person, I would greatly welcome the development of an Aids vaccine. In the UK we are fortunate to have freely administered antiretrovirals, but there is still the thought at the back of my mind that one day, my system will be overrun by this virus and these drugs will be of no use to me any longer. It's about time we had some optimism in our lives.
Ken, New York, USA
I agree that education is needs to be revitalized in the arena of HIV prevention. However more thrust is needed in the area of Aids research. New approaches need to be explored. Such as bio-oxidative, antiviral and DNA therapy. The latter would involve studying patients who are naturally immune to the disease and replicating the parts of their DNA that promote the development of this type of immunity. These people do exist. If disease is left unchecked only individuals who have genetic traits that protect them against infection will survive to populate the earth. What we need to do is accelerate this process. This may not be profitable and hence not a financially viable alternative for pharmaceutical companies.
When was the last time a drug company found a "cure" for a disease? Drug companies only make treatments to treat symptoms as a cure would put a drug company out of business.
AIDS is the worst epidemic to hit the globe for centuries. For the millions infected today, their only hope is the possibility of a cure being found in the future. Heavier spending on research might be the key to solving this disease but one has to wonder; if AIDS was to be cured would a new, more deadly virus surface?
Rob, Washington DC, USA
I am under the impression the HIV vaccine has already been developed but researchers are refusing to make it known to people as this will stop their funding. You have to think and compare what's going on around you. For example, how can they develop an abortion pill and not develop an HIV vaccine, a virus that has been around for a very long time? Think about it, if they come up with the formula, there will be no funding for researchers or the company.
Chris Hove, UK
The real breakthrough in relation to Aids treatment would not be the medication itself (which is purely a function of scientific possibilities, coupled with financial realities) but if the developed nations, and especially the pharmaceutical companies, were to understand that money isn't everything. There is a place for market driven pricing - life saving medication isn't it.
What everyone is ignoring is the amount of people who contract HIV through infected blood products. There were loads of haemophiliacs at my school who died for no reason. It's not just know-nothing kids with nothing between their ears or promiscuous people, gay or straight. So condoms aren't necessarily the answer.
The greatest medical minds on earth have researched and found the cause of Aids. There is no doubt that it is caused by human HIV virus. If governmental and religious leaders are unwilling to accept the truth and discuss it openly and frankly with their populations, then the epidemic will never abate until all of those not aware of the method of transmission and willing to take precautions are dead. Because of the long incubation period between the time of infection and the onset of Aids, this epidemic will not abate naturally. People hoping for a medical magic bullet to wipe this disease out are going to be disappointed for a long time to come. That's time the world doesn't have.
Education on these diseases is very important and should be a standard part of the curriculum in all schools globally. But it's not just the education, it's partly moral values. In a burgeoning population isn't it time we start to disapprove of promiscuity altogether? Why not have campaigns in places such as Magaluf and Benidorm where the young engage in unsafe sex and raucous behaviour, for example. The risks are real but ultimately we are only responsible for our own behaviour and the consequences of that.
The Aids virus is still commonly regarded as something which only affects homosexuals and the majority of the public therefore do not think they are at risk. Education to raise awareness that it can affect anyone needs to be stepped up to stem the tide of victims.
Although it is true that expensive drugs are allowing many people in rich countries to live reasonably normal lives these did not and could not stop the spread of the disease... that has been achieved through education, frankness about sex and safe sex practices. Unfortunately many developing countries are unwilling to take these simple, cheap and effective measures either due to religious reasons or the taboo of the subject in the society. Until they change then there is nothing but despair for the people living there.
Tom H, UK
World leaders need to combine their efforts in tackling the prejudice and stigma surrounding HIV.
When I was younger Aids warnings were everywhere - 10 years later where are they?!
Much, much more should be done to educate the young. Many of us who were in our late teens and early twenties when the virus was first discovered remember the horror of losing friends at this time. However many of those reaching maturity now weren't even born then. Time to launch a new advertising campaign...
I am upset, as a HIV+ person, to read some of the comments on here that imply HIV is the fault of the individual concerned because of their promiscuity or stupidity. A condom can break on anyone, for a start - they are not 100% reliable. Also people may behave recklessly because of their own emotional / psychological problems. Rather than pointing the finger, people should realise that no human being is perfect and look at the underlying causes of such behaviour. As for saying people shouldn't have sex with multiple partners - well that is never going to be the case for some people and it smacks of Victorian times frankly. Let's remind ourselves that no one intentionally infects themselves with this virus. Our moral feelings should not interfere with the fact that no one deserves to die of such an horrific illness, or to live with the uncertainty, fear, and stigma that being HIV+ brings.
As long as politicians continue to approve prevention measures based on morals, we will continue to see a rise in HIV infections and Aids cases. Those most at risk, the economically disadvantaged and homosexual men, are left out. If Western countries and big pharmaceutical companies would put as much money and effort into a "war on AIDS" as it has into a war on drugs, then we would be well on our way to controlling HIV/Aids worldwide.
Youth and stupidity go together - it surprises me more that 'sensible' over-24's make up the other 50%.
How can awareness be raised? Simple - the BBC could publish, on a weekly basis, a death toll for that week on this web page. When the numbers are publicly well known, then maybe enough people will be scared in to doing something meaningful.
I tested the ground with my 14-year-old son and found his knowledge was not up to an acceptable standard. This came as a surprise to me as he has grown up in a family that is very much aware of the problem and this is not the first time we talked about it. NO, our government is not doing enough to raise awareness.
No, not enough is being done to combat Aids. But then again not enough is being done about many diseases which kill more than Aids. I suppose 'Millions die from dirty water' is not a good headline is it?
Governments across the world are not doing enough to counteract the AIDS epidemic, but this is not the only area of neglect. Healthcare throughout the developing world is being sidelined , in favour of more profitable areas.
People deserve all the facts about how to avoid HIV, including the fact that condoms only reduce the risk, they don't eliminate it. Many young people feel that so long as they use a condom, they can safely have multiple partners, thereby putting themselves at greater risk.
More men die as the result of prostate cancer and more women of breast cancer than form death through having Aids yet the money spent on research of each bears no comparison.
Will McDonald, Columbus, Ohio USA
As the bulk of Aids sufferers are in Africa and Asia, expensive anti-retroviral drugs and national health campaigns are beyond most countries' reach. A global pandemic requires a global effort to deal with it. Maybe a UN treaty specifically to deal with Aids could help.
Stuart Koenig-Roach, UK
No and the world can't do anything about it until the greedy drug companies stop charging for drugs that can help reduce the problem. Drug companies should be non profit making organisations.
I still remember the Don't Die of Ignorance campaign which ran when I was at school in the 1980s. Perhaps it's time to re-run it.
Europe is just paying less and less attention to the issue. Why wait until it is too late for the new generations? Should we not learn from what is happening in Africa and Asia?
Michael Till, UK
Michael Till is right. Never before has society been so promiscuous. Sexual imagery is everywhere now. Is it any wonder then that young people are sleeping around like never before. I recently read a magazine article about a young woman who had been identified as HIV positive. In the article she states, and I quote: "How could I have HIV? I'd never been promiscuous, I'd only had about 20 sexual partners by the time I was 21." I would bet this figure is by no means uncommon amongst the youth of today. How many sexual partners did her mother and father have by the same age? I'd bet one or two. Humans are not meant to be promiscuous like this, there's some universal law against it, and when you break that law, the consequence is disease.
Douglas, South Africa
As long as the media portrays irresponsible sex as the norm, then men in particular will associate casual sex with 'a good time' and Aids will continue to claim its victims despite any attempts to educate people. Society needs to address the source of the issues and not sweep them under the carpet.
Not enough is taught about HIV or Aids in schools in the UK . I remember being told that I could get HIV from blood to blood contact, sex, and so on. I was also advised that to reduce the risk of infection during sex I should never have unprotected casual sex. Being a sensible person I took this to mean using a condom, but not everyone did, or does. Schools should educate young people better. They need to show teenagers just what HIV and Aids can do to your life. I know some won't agree with scare tactics, but more of my fellow students might have taken less risks with their lives if they were scared of the consequences.
No, no and no, the world is not doing enough! The countries of the West, in particular, has got very complacent since its infection rates fell, and now they cynically think they can leave Africa, Asia and the ex-Soviet states to their own fate. That's not clever with an infectious disease in today's global village. And it is highly immoral since the loss of the young people creates a huge gap in the labour force and millions of orphans, guaranteeing continued poverty.
Since the link between HIV and Aids has never been proven, this talk seems a little pointless. Plenty of people die from Aids with no trace of HIV. There seems a far stronger correlation between Aids and the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Graham, UK is a case in point. His comments prove the need for a proper education system about HIV and Aids awareness. Graham (and anyone else who might be prone to believing his comments), no one has died from Aids. Aids is the breakdown of a human's immune system, facilitating the demise from any one of a large number of infections (Hep B, included). It's obvious from comments like his that the world needs more education on HIV/Aids.
To Graham - wow! I thought we had the market cornered on weird Aids conspiracy theories here at home. Glad to know that's not the case. Since there's no proven link, would you be willing to inject yourself with the HIV virus and put it to the test..?
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