Walter Rhett

The Zeigeist of AIDS

In Living on August 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Charleston, SC

July 23rd, 2010
12:02 pm
The complex zeigeist surrounding AIDS, illegal drug use, and the devastation of persons, families, and communities that results from both, muddies the policies of countries in the international community. Because AIDS and addiction as diseases are tied to poor personal choices and to behaviors that are still implicitly weighed by moral and cultural standards, and because there are social boundaries that often isolate the diseased from being embraced by the mainstream, progress is difficult on many fronts. Not only Russia, but China and other Asian countries lack broad systems of health care outreach, or have only paper strategies for dealing with addiction and AIDS. Moreover, the issues of these diseases can not be truly separated from the sexual enslavement of women and children in many of these countries. Perhaps not politically, but on health care issues, many of these countries are failed societies, indifferent by culture, economics, and corruption to the tragic consequences of AIDS and addiction. Moreover, many of these countries see persons with these diseases as marginalized. In the value matrix of society, they have little standing or value. In Africa, there is still widespread denial of the presence of AIDS. An utter, reprehensible lack of service, health care, or treatment facilities exist. The prevention and treatment associated with HIV is a low priority for many of the African continent’s governments, whose entire population and societies are being radically altered and redefined by the world’s highest rates of infection, six times the rest of the world’s average; with several countries having infection rates among adults in excess of 20 percent.

In these circumstances, it is difficult for the annual conference to effectively move a common international agenda. AIDS, especially, ties local culture and customs to national policy and foreign diplomacy, making it hard to integrate ideas and policies that can be advanced internationally.

Perhaps, rather than big goals and rallies for international unity on policies, the conference might be better served to highlight and encourage the diverse local and national efforts taking place. Shining the spotlight around the globe, reviewing countries’ efforts by region, examining barriers and break throughs, affirming and supporting the importance to both AIDS and drug addiction by drilling down, advancing ground level prevention and treatment might produce better results. After all, this year’s best news was local news; the highly successful reduction of infections by South African women who participated in medical trials of anti-retrovirus therapy.

Sweeping, epic, grand proclamations seem to do a disservice to the place where the daily battles are won or lost. Unified accords seem pointless in the end when those suffering around the globe are lost in the sight of accords that really don’t affirm that the local communities are still and will be the front lines in the battle, and the best place to bring successful prevention and change. Decriminalizing drugs will not result in better personal choices, unless support is provided for prevention, whatever the legal status of drug use. Nor will AIDS infection rates drop or treatment rates go up, until resources are directed patient by patient. What is needed is a system whose policy is enlightened by the worth of every human life, despite its homeplace or life style choice.


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