Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vaccines and Rates and No Easy Answers

One of my bosses once described it as being like a bath. You fill up a bathtub, with the plug in. Then you take the plug out while continuing to run the water. The water does not rise any further, but it is not dropping either.

This is how a country is with HIV and AIDS. People first get infected, and no one is yet dying (the plug). Then people start to die (water running out of the bath). But people continue to become infected (water running into the bath).

The media is alight with news that HIV numbers are levelling off. But what this means is that there are as many people dying as people are becoming HIV-positive.

So you and I need to try to not get anywhere near the bathtub, to try to not become infected. (ha ha ha….rather take a shower…ha ha ha. Sorry.)

loveLife speaks of a “Youth Bubble”. 42% of the population in South Africa is younger than 20 years of age. And it is the youth who are most at risk of joining the HIV-positive ranks in this region, being responsible for half of new SA HIV infections.

This means the youth are an incredibly powerful forces, either in a positive or a negative way.
Think what you are/ were dealing with when you made up part of the Youth Bubble. Exploration of sex, drugs and risky behaviour. Multiple relationships of all types. Society’s forgiveness for your alcohol abuse. Working & testing out your own principles of trust, respect, and honesty. All of these potentially extremely potent in HIV transmission.

So if the youth bubble is harnessed, then the positive effects could be incredible and HIV infection rates would drop dramatically. So the theorising goes.

”If the HIV infection rate in the 15 to 24 age group drops dramatically, it could have a huge effect on controlling the virus”.

The article
that inspired this as well as the glossy media stories I half listen to in the mornings have me on edge in this area. Leave the worry of vaccines to the scientists and to the funders. And realise quickly that we are too far away from finding a vaccine, testing and allowing it, and then getting it to the population groups that need it the most, for this to be our magic answer.

Measles can be vaccinated against. And look what havoc it continues to wreck on us. Hell, I never got vaccinated from that damn spotty disease.

American virologist, David Baltimore said that “all science has to offer is education and condoms”.

So as the ordinary person, don't stop reading up but do stop theorising about vaccines and that UNAIDS exaggerated India’s numbers for the past few years. Speak to fellow South Africans about who they know who is infected, about who they have buried, about who is taking ARVS and who doesn't even know they are allowed and able to, how the people on mines and farms are in shock at the sweeping human deaths they are witnessing. Stop looking for easy outs in arguments about HIV. Keep yourself educated and protected. Or cared for.

As we build up to World AIDS Day – December 1st.


P.S. I am nervous about what I am planning on posting tomorrow. I do not want pity or judgement. I despise both. But I do want to speak up and out. To add my very small, gratefully barely affected voice to the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children.

4 comments:

Ruby said...

i wish more people would think like you and I:-( I am of the opinion that people become really daft in life threatening situations...as if they think the whole world is lying to them when they are told that HIV will eventually catch up to you if you're irresponsible. And the consequensed of that are immense!

Champagne Heathen said...

Rubes, yes, even our dearest of leaders, old Mbeki is convinced citizens' illnesses and deaths are all one big conspiracy. If there was one man I would like to give a tour of Bara Hospital...!!

KreativeMix said...

Great post!!!

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks! And I checked out your blogs & am loving them! Will look at them better when I have decent time!