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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 12:21 GMT
Are we doing enough to combat Aids?
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The number of people infected with HIV has topped 40 million for the first time, a report issued by the UN has revealed.
A record number of people have been diagnosed in Britain where diagnoses have gone up 25% since the Eighties.
Worldwide, Southern Africa remains at the epicentre of the Aids disaster and more women are now infected with the disease than men.
Officials have also warned of major epidemics in Eastern Europe, China and India unless action is taken to tackle the disease.
What steps can be taken to combat Aids/ HIV? Should more preventive measures be taken? Is the world doing enough?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Governments will not adequately fund Aids research until the victims form effective lobbying groups. Pharmaceutical companies will not adequately research cures unless they are assured of financial profits. Today's society seems to put humanitarian efforts secondary to greed. For shame.
Rajendra Khadka, Kathmandu, Nepal
I'm sorry to say that if Aids were a disease that primarily afflicted white, heterosexual people, we'd probably already have found a cure. It may be that the only way to get wealthy Westerners to do more will be to convince them that it is in their own self-interest - that the instability that the decimation of an entire generation of Africans and South East Asians will ultimately create the kinds of instability that are the breeding ground for terrorism.
Almost 40 million Africans could die of hunger in the near future. However, something can be done about. Contrast this with Aids epidemics where almost nothing can. Let's send food, mutate mosquitoes and treat malaria and cholera. Results will be much more spectacular.
Many of the African countries most badly affected by Aids spend millions of dollars on arms and perks for their elites. The West should insist that aid programmes are dependent on these governments acknowledging their problems (unlike the Republic of South Africa) and accepting an audit of the spending. Trouble is, this seems too much like imperialism...
The only way to be safe is to assume that every potential sex partner is infected until such time as you are sure they are not. It's no good refusing to accept responsibility for one's own actions and then throwing the blame at governments, The Catholic Church, other people's morals etc. Grow up, people!
I am afraid that the stigma here in Africa is so disgusting that we cannot be united to tackle this disease. Here in Africa, once you made the mistake of accepting or saying that you had Aids, or even the virus HIV and it happens that you are not a rich person, your life is just coming to end, because it is impossible for people to associate with you any more, nobody will want to do anything with you and your family are likely to join in rejecting you. That the problems we face here in Africa, especially in the village.
In an ideal world we could screen everyone and provide treatment but even if the finances were in place, the logistics do not bear thinking about.
So what can you do? Get involved - help lobby on policy issues, or help raise funds to support those affected by Aids. In Southern Africa, the projected number of orphans affected by the disease runs into millions.
It is easy to make a difference to these children's lives if you are willing to spare some time. We, Starfish charity, are asking people to host dinners in their own homes next April 27 (South Africa's Freedom Day). Guests contribute and 100% of the money goes to orphans in South Africa.
A breakdown in morality through ignorance of religious duties has resulted in an increase in Aids. People must be stupid if they think there is no direct relationship between the two.
I am a Christian living with Aids and my Christian faith has been my one source of inspiration and hope in living a positive life.
People have a tendency to regard the responsibility of creating awareness to authorities in general. We can all play a major part by talking to our friends, educating those who either don't have accurate or enough information, organising debates, and promoting sexual consciousness. We all have a part in this.
There are always aberrations to the rule; such as children born with Aids, and infection through blood transfusions; but generally speaking Aids is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It does no good to quote the exception, when you are trying to cure the general. The exception will be solved by the curing the typical.
The government took five years to introduce a sexual health strategy, and when eventually it did so, it lumped in HIV with all other sexual infections. Any doctor in the field will tell you that it is a very different condition, with very different treatment issues. I know that some clinics in London have seen a one-third increase in referrals over the last year, but with no increase in funding. The government needs to treat the issue as a serious one, by introducing proper funding and a dedicated strategy.
Education will prevent many cases, but an individual person, in the heat of a romantic contact, will rationalise their way out of any education they had gotten about Aids because people love to have sex.
Love the Tory response: "Too little to late". Perhaps they should remember the stupid iceberg adverts. Talk about not addressing the facts. But gays were never on priority list with Mrs Thatcher.
We need to get back to basics by promoting healthy relationships and personal responsibility. Both these tactics will help reduce this tragedy by addressing the root causes, leaving us to consider how to deal with the devastation of lives already destroyed by this by-product of the sexual revolution.
It's still not clear if you can transmit HIV via oral sex. Advertising needs to be clear and more focused on the facts.
I think we must do more in the countries where due to religion they cannot talk about Aids. I am talking nations like Pakistan, Saudi Arab, UAE etc.
The UK Government is not doing enough to raise awareness of HIV and Aids at home. I am old enough to remember the original health warnings of the mid-80s, but today's teenagers won't. We need the same hard-hitting warnings again.
It is true that women are increasingly being infected, but this is a behavioural problem more than a medical problem. Young people, even in "modernised" societies take risks every day. The destruction of the nuclear family and the sexual revolution are to blame.
In the UK there is clearly a problem with the quality and extent of sex education, as witnessed by the rise in HIV infection and the high teenage pregnancy rate. We urgently need to throw away the puritan and conservative approach to sex education that dominated the 1980s, accept that people of all ages and types want to have sex, and make information and education about sex a central part of the school curriculum so that we can all enjoy a healthy life.
Developed countries live by "Out of sight out of mind". Education on Aids is not just needed in Third World countries; it is needed in every country. The fight hasn't even started.
It is clear that the governments of the world, including the US, have underestimated the need for and cost of HIV prevention programs. The US has devoted huge sums of money to the development of very expensive drugs that are not affordable by most of the rest of the world. The consequences of this neglect will have a tremendous impact upon us all.
Chris B, Bedford, England
It's all very well educating people about HIV and other STIs but there's still a mad belief among many of my peers that it just won't happen to one of them. They're very unlikely to drop their lifestyle until something tragic happens to one of them who's brave enough to tell all the others. Talking about anything you have is very much still a taboo subject.
As an active AIDS education supporter within a local school board, I have had the sad task of updating my presentation from year to year by adding millions of deaths and infected people to the alarming statistics. With over 5,500 people a day dying of AIDS in sub Saharan Africa, this situation can be easily compared with the deaths on September 11. Sadly, to our world leaders the life of a black person in Africa, apparently, is not the moral equivalent of the life of an American.
Zach England, Salt Lake City, USA
We in the Western world are doing everything we can but when you have governments who don't accept there is a problem what can we do? There are millions of people who chop the ends off condoms before use or believe that having sex with a virgin is a cure, resulting in the infection of babies. Education is their best hope but it will need a cultural shift before it will show positive results.
The West also has a part to play, exploiting the Third World and destroying any hope of them building their own infrastructure, forcing them into the kind of poverty in which this religious stupidness thrives. We need to wipe out Third World debt, have TRUE fair trade and then these countries will be able to deal with their own Aids problems because they will have the infrastructure and education to do it.
Anything else that killed 9,000 people in one day would make constant news headlines. There is still too much denial and stigma around HIV and Aids, and in the UK, we are trying to address this through the Stop Aids Campaign - a unique initiative bringing together aid agencies like Save the Children and Oxfam, local and national Aids groups and community groups. Our agenda is What would YOU do to stop Aids? We are calling for more aid, more debt cancellation and cheaper drugs. At www.stopaidscampaign.org.uk there's a whole list of ideas - we could all start by just picking one!
Kobina Ayitey, Accra, Ghana
When I had my baby I was automatically tested for Aids. Why can't they do this for everyone when they go for a check up at their doctors?
The world is not really doing enough to combat Aida, compared with the fast rate that the disease grows in Africa. Every day that passes brings high death rates for the continent. Wake up world leaders.
I think that everyone should be screened confidentially. The government would then know the exact number of people with the virus, and everyone who carries it would also know to be careful. I also think that anyone who goes to an STD clinic should have the test. Most clinics ask you a series of intimate questions, and only if you answer yes to any of them would they recommend a test. Even if you have had unprotected sex and contracted another STD.
I don't think that it is a fair comment to say that it is down to the individual, as has been suggested here. Of course unprotected sex is down to the individual, however the majority of the HIV/Aids population lives in countries where condoms are virtually unheard of.
I hold the Catholic Church directly responsible for thousands of deaths from Aids, particularly in Africa. I'm a Catholic myself, and I'm shocked that my church has absolutely forbidden the use of condoms to prevent the spread of death by this disease.
For four years I have tried hard to raise awareness and get my colleagues to take an interest, but they are just not interested. They still think it is a problem which only affects gay men, so they needn't pay any notice. Wearing ribbons and giving money - no hope. Well, brushing a problem under the carpet doesn't make it go away or get better; we all need to wake up.
Simon Charles, Winnipeg, Canada
I think the world has done more than enough for Aids awareness. At the end of the day, it is down to the individual to be more responsible.
Wyn, Barry, UK: What about all the children who become infected with HIV because their parents had it? And those who have developed it through infected blood? Do you think they should have been "more responsible"?
My mom lived in Zaire for more than 20 years, and she told me about how horrible the living conditions are nowadays in her hometown and in the rest of the continent. Do you know why in the statistics there are a million kids who are infected with Aids under the age of fifteen? Most of them, who live in Africa, they don't know about how to avoid the disease and many can't afford to buy a condom.
Tom Skinner, Manchester, UK
Of course we are not doing enough. The stigma of Aids still applies whether it be gay men, women, drug users or Third World people in general. It is still fashionable to blame the victim but society must care if only because society at large is damaged when so many people are ill and die young. It also might improve world society in general if people actually cared about others.
While Aids is a significant cause of death worldwide it should be remembered that there are even greater killers who garner less publicity. Malaria kills many more people than Aids has ever done yet is not as high profile, nor are waterborne disease. It does seem diseases get most publicity when they threaten Western populations Perhaps we should concentrate on the biggest killers first then think about tackling Aids.
Had the world been screened when the virus was first identified about 16 or 17 years ago, it could have been contained and the epidemic avoided. But the world was relatively indifferent and wanted to be politically correct. As a result, countless tens of millions of lives will be needlessly lost. Some people will never learn the consequences of ignoring an alarm bell.
If one could film the graveyards that are filling here and overflowing out the gates it would help show the problem.
It has got to the stage here where families can't afford to bury their dead so go quietly at night and bury the bodies anywhere they can. One has to wait for over 20 days to be cremated as there is a gas shortage. So you can imagine the backlog.
It comes down to self responsibility. Lack of education is a factor, but the majority of the problem lies with people┐s ignorance and their uncontrollable behaviour. Fix that, and the disease will eradicate itself.
Kyle Matthews, Ottawa, Canada
We are not doing nearly enough at this juncture. We merely listen while comments are made about how ignorance is the main cause and the problem lies with the infected. Major pharmaceutical companies will continue their fight to keep cheap knock-offs out of reach for those who suffer, and we will carry on as usual without realizing perhaps this disease might mutate in another generation, to spread on the wind. Who really knows? HIV is an "enemy", already killing at a rate that makes WW11 look tame in comparison.
26 Nov 02 | Health
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