Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, when we remember the victims of an epidemic to which our modern society has had a shamefully poor and spectacularly inadequate response. There's no excuse in this day and age for the outright neglect we've shown this disease's victims. They are desperately poor, socially marginalized, sexually promiscuous and/or drug addicts, and therefore deemed not worth the time and expense of treating.

HIV is eminently easy to control. Its contagion mechanism is terrible. Its true strength is in its near-impossibility to cure once it infects its victim. So if we could just prevent its spread, we'd be golden.

HIV should not still be a problem. We could have kicked it in the 1960's. We SHOULD have obliterated it in the 1980's. And yet here we are: millions upon millions dead, millions infected, new super-resistant strains evolving, and a day to reflect on our miserable failure as a society, thirty years ago and today, to eradicate a retrovirus that our species easily has the ability to outsmart... if only we'd try.

Kudos to Thailand, who so far has been the only community to get it right.

Boo to the Roman Catholic Church, the church of my heritage, which continues to be boneheaded to an astonishing degree all the way up and down its ranks.

And today we may pause in remembrance of those who didn't know the danger they were putting themselves into, those who weren't behaving dangerously but got infected anyway, those who sought help that was unavailable, those who sought help just to be met with more harm and rejection, those who were too afraid to speak up and died alone in agony, those who were forced to die alone in agony because of their social stigmas, and those who sought help at the right time in the right way but were just plain out of luck.

And we may acknowledge that HIV is not yet dead. It's experiencing a slow resurgence. A resurgence we hardly ever hear about.

Oh yes, and, happy first day of Hanukkah.

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