Getting a little behind

As Esta graciously pointed out in an email, I’m behind in my reading. I didn’t realize that Thacker had bowed out from his nomination after a storm broke about his statements. Still, I think the bulk of my earlier comment stands. The proposed money for AIDS relief is promising. I just hope that the administration’s wobbly grasp of reality doesn’t turn it into a massive campaign to promote abstince in sub-Saharan Africa.

Small ray of light

I got home too late to watch the State of the Union address, but I’m reading the transcript now. Along with my expected knee-jerk reaction to the administration playing the partial-birth abortion card, continuing to insist on Saddam’s WoMD and vaguely linking him to 9/11, there was one thing that pleasantly surprised me: Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief:

…tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. … I ask the Congress to commit 15 billion dollars over the next five years, including nearly ten billion dollars in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

What will be interesting to see is how the Administration reconciles “turning the tide against AIDS” with their war on the condom. And their appointment of Jerry Thacker, the Bob Jones University employee and “AIDS is a gay plague/homosexuality is a deathstyle” blowhard, to the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS.

Social commentary at SAM

Stuffed after an ill advised dessert, we headed to the Seattle Art Museum for a quick turn around the permanent exhibits. I was excited to find they had a Cheri Samba painting in the “Hero/Antihero” exhibit. Ever since Samba’s appearance in the late lamented Raw comic magazine, I’ve been fascinated by his work, which calls out social issues in Africa, including the spread of AIDS.

Appropriately enough, on the floor below the permanent exhibits of African art were darkened in memory of the millions of people around the world, especially in Africa, who have died from AIDS.

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.

Link and Think 2002

As last year, this year I’ll be participating in Link and Think, an “observance of World AIDS Day [December 1] in the personal web publishing communities.” The idea is simple. Rather than blogging about technology, music, or what have you, for a day each participating blogger will blog about AIDS. Last year it was a great opportunity for me to educate myself about what the MIT community was doing with respect to the epidemic. This year I’ll stay with the community focus but look at what the state of Washington will be doing.

Image for the <a href=

I hope some of my readers will choose to participate; I hope others will just read my page and those of other participants and inform themselves.

Licensing for Lives

I do a fair amount of work with people from other parts of MIT, including John Preston, the co-director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. John used to direct the MIT Technology Licensing Center, the folks responsible for clearing the way to have MIT technology used as the basis for forming new companies like Akamai. His successor, Lita Nelson, is an advisor on intellectual property for IAVI, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. As she points out, “The American population is wearing a blindfold on this issue. Because the drugs are keeping people alive, we’re starting to think of AIDS like we think about pneumonia. But there is no cure for AIDS. And the rate [of infection] is climbing again in California.”

When is it, again?

Today is World AIDS Day for most of the world, except at MIT where it’s being held December 5 “to allow for the fullest possible participation by the [MIT] community.” Interesting point — is it more important to show unanimity within the MIT community or with the rest of the world? Knowing how big the need for community is at MIT, I think making sure that people can participate is a good idea…