World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  There is a big event in DC planned to pay lip service to ending this horrible disease.  Bono will be there.  President Obama will be there.  Former Presidents Clinton and Bush will be there.  It’s too bad that this comes on the heels of the announcement that for the first time since it was founded ten years ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has cut funding to poor countries.  This funding is essential for programs in these countries and its absence will have devastating consequences for millions of people.  This is literally a question of life or death for millions of people.

The Global Fund now directly keeps alive 3.2 million people on anti-retroviral treatment.  (Together with other funders that means that around 6.6 million people are now on these life-saving drugs.) It has financed 8.2 million courses of TB treatment and the distribution of 190 million insecticide-treated nets to fight malaria.  We are seeing a historic turn in the progression of these pandemics.  — Jeffrey Sachs, Politicians just don’t care enough to tackle this scourge.

Health care is a basic human right.  That’s just my opinion.  That’s part of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

This is not the time to withhold funding vital to programs that are working.  Malaria prevention efforts are starting to have a real impact in places like Africa.  We tend to think of certain infectious diseases as being other people’s problems.  They strike in poor countries, far away from us.  The problem with that thinking — other that the callous nature with which we view the world through the prism of how does this impact me personally? — is that is is just wrong and shortsighted.  Infectious diseases, for instance, that kill people over there, are just as deadly when they strike here.  These are often diseases of poverty, we have that here.

Over the past year, I have been working with a nonprofit health organization — they develop and deliver medicines for infectious diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis, which is nearly 100 percent fatal when left untreated.  Like AIDS, it destroys its victims immune system.  Our military personnel are being infected because they are fighting in areas where it is endemic.  New studies also show an increasing number of co-infections – -VL & AIDS.

TB is a scourge in the US, too.  Washington, DC has one of the highest rates of infection in the nation.  What’s worse is that many cases are of the drug resistant variety, a side effect of a treatment that can take up to two years is that people don’t follow through with the full treatment.  (Topic for another day is how our antibiotic abuse is making them less effective. short version, if your doctor doesn’t give you one for the sniffles, don’t demand one.)

Other, less famous diseases such as Dengue Fever are making a comeback in the US as well.  The mosquito that carries the potentially deadly illness has been found as far north as North Carolina.  Mosquitoes don’t care about borders.

The bottom line is that if a disease can strike anywhere, it can strike anywhere.  We risk losing important ground gained over the past decade because we lack the political will to do the right thing.

Same crap, different week

• Bush admits he made mistakes. Ya think? It’s so good to admit that now. Now, eight days before a new president takes office, you are ready to say you made mistakes. Of course, not for anything that really matters. Was the response to Katrina slow? Not according to Dubya. How ‘bout the economy, “I inherited a recession and I am leaving a recession.” While he finally admitted the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner was not a good idea, he still thinks the war in Iraq was a good idea and considers Abu Ghraib ‘unfortunate.’ Because it happened or because we found out about it? While the White House called today’s press conference the ‘ultimate exit interview’ if you are one of the few Americans out there who will miss George (the) W (rong son got elected) Bush, fear not. He still has plenty of ‘legacy saving’ interviews/speeches on his schedule.
• You voted for Obama, bought the hat, t-shirt, etc. but do you have the commemorative Metrorail pass/smartcard? No? Well, you had better buy one right now because they are going fast. I shouldn’t joke about such seriousness, they probably will go fast. I am still waiting for my Illinois quarter – in color no less – to arrive, what a steal! A quarter only cost me $20.
• Are political pundits like sharks? By that I mean, if they stop talking, do they die? Do they need polls to survive? Was the most important thing about the meeting Obama requested last week of all living presidents, the colors of their ties and/or what they ate? Does anyone really give a shit about that?
• He really likes to work. “I’m a Type A personality…I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach, particularly since I quit drinking,” Bush said. (from ABC News among other sources.) Yeah, that’s what I have heard about the President who I believe spent more time away from the White House than any other president and on vacay than anyone in 60 years.
• Say it ain’t so, Joe. Sorry, Joe-the-not-really-a-plumber, your 15 minutes ended about, well 15 minutes after they started. First you were an annoying campaign ploy, then a fraud, then a war correspondent and now are considering running for the US Senate? ( Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel. Hey, GOP, good luck with that.