Philip Alcabes discusses myths of health, disease and risk.

Questions on World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  After thirty years, 25 million deaths, and countless articles, books, press releases, TV and radio programs, fundraisers, AIDS walks, and messages from Bono  —  there’s still an AIDS Day?  It’s hard to see how any disease could be less in need of a boost to awareness.

But how can every day not be AIDS Day?  Over 5,000 people die of AIDS each day, worldwide — even now, in the era of effective therapy.  In south Asia alone, more people die of AIDS every two weeks than have died of the H1N1 swine flu worldwide in the past six months (about 8,000).  In Africa, AIDS takes that toll every two or three days.

AIDS is a big problem in far-away poor countries, in other words.  But unlike the usual poor-nation problems that are easily ignored in comfortable North America — malaria, sleeping sickness, dengue, diarrhea, and more — AIDS is still a problem here, too.   Surely, you might think, we ought not to need any reminders about AIDS.

Much has been said about AIDS, and much has been done.  What does World AIDS Day add?

A harder question, perhaps: why can’t AIDS just be an ordinary disease? Surely, you might think, it isn’t special anymore.

Here are some thoughts on the problem of ordinariness, published in the American Scholar a few years ago.  The occasion was the 25th anniversary of the announcement of the first U.S. cases of AIDS.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 7:25 am and is filed under Disease, epidemics, Myths, Narratives, public health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.