Contrary to popular belief, the AIDS pandemic is getting worse.

I’ll leave the World AIDS Day comments to the Chron (whom I agree with emphatically):

Nov. 29, 2003, 5:15PM


From city streets to globe’s corners, a true pandemic

Today is World AIDS Day, a designation to which too many people will say, “So what?” — if they have any response at all.

Perhaps buoyed by the progress made in the treatment of the HIV virus or the misimpression that the disease has no effect on them, many people have turned a blind eye.

That’s exactly the wrong response.

Consider some of the realities:

  • AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria kill 6 million people annually, and the numbers are growing.
  • Over 40 million people live with HIV/AIDS, 8 million with TB, and 400 million have malaria.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the AIDS pandemic is getting worse. In the past year alone, 5 million more people were infected. For the first time in the last decade, the number of cases in the United States increased last year, up 2.2 percent.
  • While Africa remains the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, with 29 million people infected, the number of cases is rising in Eastern Europe and Asia, especially in Russia, India and China. Russia has the highest rate of new infections.

There were more new infections and deaths from HIV/AIDS in the past year than ever before. In an age of globalization, this and other infectious diseases have become a huge challenge of our time.

Think locally? Yes. Texas is fourth in the nation in the number of AIDS cases. Houston ranks eighth among U.S. cities in the number of diagnosed AIDS cases, according to AIDS Foundation Houston, which also estimates that one of every 90 Houstonians is living with HIV/AIDS.

The good news is that people infected with HIV are living longer. The bad news is that more people are being infected, which means an ever-expanding demand for treatment and other services. One way or another, HIV costs us all.

The Economist magazine recently reported on the fate of South Africa, in which warnings were largely ignored. Today, South Africa has more HIV positive citizens than any other country: 5.3 million out of a population of 45 million.

“As this example illustrates,” The Economist wrote, “delay can spell disaster when dealing with AIDS. By the gloomiest recent projection, South Africa is heading for an economic collapse within three generations as wage-earners are wiped out and parents die before they can teach their offspring the basics of how to get on in life.”

It’s happening in many places around the world, not just Africa.

Among the urgent needs, the United States must live up to Bush administration pledges in funding for the Global AIDS Fund. Unfortunately, that’s not happening. President Bush’s budget proposal for fiscal 2005 remains hundreds of millions of dollars below what, with great fanfare, he promised.

From the streets of Houston to the halls of Washington to the corners of the globe, inattention and inaction are invitations to disaster: disaster costly in human lives and misery and costly to the economy. That’s the message of World AIDS Day.

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