Saturday, November 6, 2010

HIV/AIDS, My "Virus Novel" and Oldstone's Virus, Plagues & History

Photo #1: AIDS Research, photo by Karen Kasmanski, from nationalgeographic.com: A scientist in Franceville, Gabon, removes hair and blood samples from a cooperative chimpanzee. Researchers believe that an evolving AIDS virus first spread to humans from wild African chimpanzees, which suffer from a similar virus called SIV.

Photo #2: AIDS Patient, photo by Gideon Mendel from nationalgeographic.com: A doctor examines an emaciated AIDS patient in Lusikisiki, South Africa. Ninety-four out of every hundred HIV-infected people live in developing nations, where currently available drug therapies are largely unaffordable.

I'm doing research for my "virus novel"--See #1 of "On the Fire" from Nov. 4th--at Borders, because they have more up-to-date books than the library, and I got help from employees who went to the medical section, the history section, etc. while in the library you'd have to wait forever to get one librarian's help.  I took 8 books to the cafe, where after a few hours, a woman sat next to me and began talking out loud to herself and weeping to herself; she got up, walked around in a distracted state, leaving her bag on the chair next to me, and then came back and asked if she could sit with me, apparently forgetting where she'd been.  I DO attract those, I'm like flypaper for them.

In all that time, I only researched one book, Virus, Plagues & History, by Michael B. A. Oldstone.  This book was so (horrifyingly) fascinating and informative that I spent three hours just with that one.  Incredible stuff about Ebola, SARS, West Nile, polio, Yellow Fever and smallpox, but there was some truly eye-popping things about HIV/AIDS.  A few of its sobering facts (as of 2008):

HIV--"A plague as horrifying as any ever known now afflicts us, and the cause is a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  In the twenty-five years (1983-2008) since the initial case report of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), this disease caused by HIV has afflicted over 60 million people, and nearly one half of them have died." pg. 251.

Drug therapy has reduced by 2/3 the death rate in the US compared to the 1990s, but worldwide, for every 4 newly infected people, just 1 receives therapy.

"...no vaccine is on the horizon for preventing this medical catastrophe." 

UN estimates that 34 million have HIV, but author suspects 39 million.

In Africa, 3% of entire population is afflicted. 

CDC believes 40,000 in the U.S. are newly infected every year and that over 250,000 have it and don't know it. 

CDC recommends all people ages 13 to 64 in the US have tests to detect HIV as part of routine medical care or emergency room visits. 

Author says 25-50% of newly infected people don't know they are. 

By 1995, 14 years after original patient report, CDC and WHO estimated 1 in 70 males in US and 1 in 700 females had it. 

As of Oct. 31, 1995, 501,310 Americans with AIDS reported to CDC; 311,381 (62%) had died. 

From 1993 to present, among men 25-44, AIDS is the leading cause of death; for women, 3rd leading cause.  These numbers are an underestimate in the US. 

In Africa, over 1 in 40 men and women infected.

People either die from it or become lifetime infected.  

"HIV is poorly transmitted; fewer than 5% of exposed humans are estimated to develop the infection." pg. 269.

(I'm back.)

So: Why isn't HIV/AIDS as much a part of the national discussion as it used to be in the 80s and 90s, especially since more people, in Africa and in the world, are afflicted with it than ever before?  Why isn't it still news?  Because it's not on the American political agenda?

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