Holiday beginning: exhaustion sets in

We started our holiday decorating process last Wednesday with our first trip (but not our last) to Molbak’s for poinsettias (there are 39 different varieties of the plant there right now). Saturday I spent mostly cleaning up our garage, unboxing a few things that were still in boxes, and getting our second TV in the Sun Room set up.

This afternoon Lisa and I went back to Ikea (we were there yesterday as well to get some holiday decorations and a small chair for the Sun Room) to get some shelves. On the way back we stopped at Home Depot and got a six foot “Noble Fir” Christmas tree. We bought it on faith—it was still strapped tight—but we assumed (correctly) that it was in pretty good shape. And with the straps on, I was able to take down the right half of the Passat’s back seat, lay out one of our much abused painter’s cloths, and slide the tree right in.

Getting the tree into the house was a slightly different story. I ran out of upper body strength and patience half way through sawing the bottom 1/2 inch off the tree out in our garage. Fortunately a hammer and chisel helped get the last bit off. After a lot of swearing, vacuuming and sweeping, the tree was in the stand and the needles were out of the garage.

At this point we stopped for dinner, which was a mistake in retrospect. We ran out of steam. I got one string of lights partway on the tree and then stopped. Lisa went to bed and I will follow her once I finish writing.

This is the first Christmas tree we’ve had for at least three years, since the last (or next-to-last) year we were in McLean, Virginia. I think that once we finish setting it up we’ll have succeeded in claiming another piece of this house as our home. Unfortunately that’ll have to wait until Tuesday; I have practice tomorrow night.

I’m quite tired after four days of “rest and relaxation.” I suppose this is what aging does to you. (I’ll be thirty tomorrow.)

Ryan White HIV Program at UVA

The UVA Ryan White HIV Program was established in 1986 and has received a Ryan White Title IIIb grant to “expand and enhance HIV primary care in… the western half of Virginia.”This page at UVA discusses the program and has an enormous list of links on HIV and AIDS resources in Virginia and worldwide.

Figures of concern

The figures in the AIDS epidemic are repeated so often they tend to numb the viewer. Here are a collection of figures, including statistics with and without corroboration, that I present as a kind of collage of the impact of the epidemic (original sources hyperlinked):

  • “Last year, 2.3 million people died of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • “If AIDS continues unabated for the next 20 years, the worldwide death toll will reach 68 million.”
  • “Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, some 11 million children have been orphaned by AIDS.”
  • Most of the children in the world under 15 years old living with HIV or AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa: 2.4 million, compared with 300,000 in the rest of the world. That number will continue to grow: in 2001, 700,000 new infections occurred in children under 15, compared with 100,000 in the rest of the world.
  • In the US, the CDC says 816,149 total cases of AIDS have been reported, with 467,910 deaths, including 5,257 children under age 15. New York City leads US metropolitan areas with 126,237 cumulative cases of AIDS, followed by LA, San Francisco, Miami, Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Newark, and Atlanta.
  • The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reports that 42 million people are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide today. The rate of spread of the disease continues to outpace the death rate of the disease, with five million new infections and 3.1 million deaths in 2002.


PATH developing a better female condom

Following a reference in the Seattle Times photoessay, I found out about PATH, the Seattle-based Program for Appropriate Technology in Health. Among many other technologies for diagnosis, immunization, and prevention, PATH is working on improving the vaginal condom (PDF). This is critical to preventing the spread of AIDS in countries like Zimbabwe where the high cultural emphasis placed on male virility slows the spread of male condom use.

Seattle Times: special report on AIDS

The Times has an enormous special section on AIDS today. Highlights include a pictorial essay with audio commentary about conditions in Zimbabwe. Interesting captions such as this one:

Women have little control over sexual politics in the sub-Sahara, where men pay a lobola, or bride price, to marry them, and then set the rules. The traditional male condom has proved a weak weapon in the fight against AIDS, so global health workers promote women-controlled devices, such as the female condom touted on this billboard.

Seattle Times: “Personal sorrow, global havoc”

Seattle Times: “AIDS: Personal sorrow, global havoc.” The Times runs an editorial from the newspaper’s perspective that’s crying out for hyperlinks (I really would like a source for the factoid that “by the end of 2002, 42 million men, women, and children will be living with incurable HIV/AIDS,” not to mention demographic breakdowns). But the paper does lay some blame squarely at the feet of our squeamish administration:

Medicine to fight mother-to-child transmission of the disease is available, but is not getting to where the help is needed. Programs to promote safe sex run into squeamishness in the Bush administration about advocating distribution of condoms.

Sexual abstinence is one message, but it flies in the face of reality, especially in destitute countries where selling sex equates to survival, not a moral dilemma. Women suffer half the cases of HIV/AIDS, with devastating effects on families.