December 2005


We have arrived at a place in human history where we are faced with an adversary that threatens the lives of hundreds of millions of people, and we're unwilling or unable to defend our fellow man from this threat, not because we cannot successfully defeat the scourge, but because we cannot do so with a high enough profit margin.

Welcome to the 21st Century. In the next fifty years, experts tell us, we can look forward to 200 million+ deaths from AIDS world-wide. In Africa, already, entire regions have been decimated. In some places, not one child in three has living parents. India, China, Indonesia, and South America are next.

We have, nevertheless, become complacent about AIDS because of our perception that AIDS is largely controlled in the United States, and that there are effective treatments available that allow the infected to live almost a normal life/lifespan. This is incredible, especially in light of the fact that, since the current administration was first elected, the number of people without access to even minimal health care (let alone expensive, long-term treatment) has more than doubled. Some epidemiologists worry that the number of new cases of AIDS has slowed not because there really are fewer new cases but because we were catching up on counting the old cases and now we've caught up - that and the fact that more new cases might go undiagnosed because more people don't have access to health care.

AIDS is going to be a feature in all our lives. Since the Chinese Communists became the Chinese Capitalists, the Chinese people lost their national health care system, so now there is very little to stand in the way of the AIDS epidemic there. In India, AIDS is growing by leaps and bounds, more than doubling every year. In Indonesia and South America the prevailing attitude has been to ignore the problem away, with only very recent efforts towards real change.

Some conservative pundits have wondered what's wrong with people dying of AIDS in Asia, since they have too many people anyway. Some even call AIDS God's answer to population control. If that were true, what kind of a God is that. There must be a better way to save the human race than to kill off three or four hundred million humans.

The part of the equation that these conservative pundits have missed is the fact that, for good or for bad, we've made of all these nations one global society and one global economy. The deaths of millions are going to have repercussions, yes, even in middle America. We're going to have to deal with their tragedy. It is our tragedy, too.

Recently, the United States news media have been full of stories about the dangers of an avian flu pandemic. Several in-depth stories about avian flu have mentioned that the biggest reason for the fear of a rapid spread of the disease is because of the increase in the size of inner-city slums in most of the major urban centers of the globe. The same populations are at risk in the AIDS pandemic - and it should be noted that there is no better breeding ground for a human form of avian flu than a large group of untreated AIDS patients living in close-packed squalor.

So what?

Human societies operate according to some pretty simple rules. Societies that value people and care for all their members, rich or poor, sick or well, support creativity, spontaneity, originality, dignity, and freedom. Societies that fail to value people, and value only material wealth, allow the poor and weak to be oppressed; they support conformity, rigidity, obedience, subservience, and slavery. Which do you choose?

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