Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Providing a Plaintive Voice For the World AIDS Epidemic et al

Providing a Plaintive Voice For the World AIDS Epidemic - Washington Post
AIDS Crisis Shapes Bishop's Stance - Washington Post
AIDS Conference Ends With Appeals - Washington Post
South African court urged to convict Zuma of rape - Washington Post
Ex-President of S. Africa Acquitted of Rape - Washington Post
Zuma Apologizes for Having Unprotected Sex - Washington Post
SAfrica's Zuma's apology not enough: UN AIDS envoy - Washington Post

Russia Said to Be on Edge of AIDS Crisis - AP

Researchers have expended extraordinary time and effort tracking down where they believe HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, first came to being. The first confirmed case traces back to the Belgian Congo in 1959. Yet it is 45 years later that the disease is ravaging Africa, having gained speed from all around the world.

So why has it taken so long for AIDS to ‘come back’ to Africa, and how long will it take to leave? While it was zoonosis, the process whereby the virus, carried by infected monkeys, was transmitted to West African hunters, transmission, by contaminated needles and unprotected sex, have taken much longer to become the dominant forms of infection.

The questions of its exit loom largest in the case of the continent’s leader, South Africa, where 5 million now carry HIV. Why are there so many infections now? Especially since we have known for 20 years that needles must be sterile and sex must be protected? Furthermore, ‘must it be this way?’

The factors that affect the introduction, rise, and fall of a disease within a society are different. The introduction and rise are largely governed by randomness and opportunity. However, the fall of a disease like AIDS, is driven by assimilation of required efficacious behaviors. This determines how quickly a society will control and ultimately eliminate the threat to itself.

The magnitude of the assimilation challenge can be roughly measured with common available indices. The United Nation’s Development Program measures each country according to a Technology Achievement Index (TAI) based upon the rate at which technology is created, applied and disseminated within their borders. The rate for South Africa stands at .34, compared to .73 in the US. Finland, at .74, tops the world list, and where a score of 1 reflects the maximum. Estimates for Russia place their score in the mid-forties.

When the cure or protective behavior against a disease emanates, as often is the case, from a society with a higher TAI, like the US, the difficulty in application via assimilation can be assessed relative to the difference in TAI scores. A smaller difference in score indicates ‘easier’ acceptance of the new behavior. Even a score of .34 for South Africa is misleading, inasmuch as the disparity between the average South African and Black South Africa, can be estimated to be as much as .15, which indicates and even greater magnitude of behavior change.

The behaviors and attitudes we hear and see, that keep diseases thriving, can and do sound, at times, ignorant, reckless, and even unconscionable, but we should remember that they represent the struggle of societies, at different stages of development, and in various states of ‘collision’ with their more or less advanced global neighbors.

It is nonetheless imperative that we keep working, as nations, to help each other eradicate both disease and disparity.

James C. Collier


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