Editorials and Commentary
AIDS Plague Is the Defining Crisis of Our Time
August 12, 2002
"Eighty-five million. It's a big number, more than 1 percent of the total world population. Eighty-five million is what world health experts say will be the total number of cases of HIV/AIDS in eight years, if the epidemic continues its terrible advance.
" ... True, new drugs can transform HIV/AIDS from a life-threatening disease to a chronic one, and they can prevent mother-to-child infections. These drugs offer hope, but they are available to too few with the disease. With 95 percent of HIV/AIDS cases occurring in the developing world, the regions with the highest and fastest-growing rates of infection happen to be those where these treatments are least available.
" ... Dealing with AIDS is about compassion and concern for human life. But it's also about a lot more. In some African countries, the average life expectancy has dipped to less than 40 years, and school populations have dropped by as much as a quarter. The mounting toll is tearing at the very fabric of these societies, causing labor shortages, deepening poverty and destroying educational opportunity. The effect has been the virtual destabilization of a continent and a reversal of the past half-century of development.
" ... This is the defining crisis of our time. What will history say about us if we do not make every effort to address it? If we fail to get these treatments to those who need them most because they lack the money to pay for them, history's verdict will be harsh indeed.
"So what is being done? Not nearly enough, in most of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic. More discouraging still, social and political taboos in places such as India and China are providing another barrier to fighting the disease.
"As for the industrialized world, the United Nations estimates that $10 billion a year is needed to combat AIDS. That's a lot of money. But until the epidemic is brought under control, all other efforts toward peace, democracy and development will be compromised.
"Ten billion dollars a year will prove a bargain -- if it saves the millions."
The author, a native Texan, is anchor of "CBS Evening News."
08.10.02; Dan Rather
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.