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Other Maladies Overshadowed by AIDS

Column by A. Arif Husain
Staff Reporter

In the wake of World AIDS Day, a nationwide commemoration of HIV victims, it may seem that AIDS has become an unbeatable threat. For years we have been hearing the tragic stories of victimization. We are constantly barraged with statistics. We are told that millions have died, and hundreds are infected every hour. We are told to wear red ribbons. We support the idea of finding a cure, and we spend millions of tax dollars in the process. We are made to think that AIDS is a killer -- not just any killer, but the greatest killer. I refuse to believe it.

While it is true that AIDS is a serious matter, it hardly lives up to its inflated image. Every year tens of millions of people across the globe die of cancer, heart disease, cholera, and a host of other afflictions. The death toll of each of these far outweighs that of AIDS. Yet, surprisingly, we invest far more effort and money in AIDS research and awareness than we do in any other disease. The explanation for this lies not in its nature, but in its social context.

Most diseases these days can be attributed, at least in part, to some environmental cause. We know, for example, that smoking leads to lung cancer. Similarly, we know that an active lifestyle and a good diet help prevent heart disease. For the most part, we can reduce our risks tremendously by following certain guidelines. We know what is safe, and we try to adapt.

When it comes to AIDS, however, we are stuck. We know that HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, making sexual activity its major distributor. But unlike the other cases, the guidelines derived from this are much more difficult to follow. Our society has become so attached to its promiscuous behaviors, that even the threat of a painful, lingering death does not sway these habits. We continue our practices and we continue to cope with the perpetual fear of AIDS.

Realizing this, it is not hard to see the rationale behind our nation's infatuation with AIDS. With no feasible preventative measures available, complete abstinence notwithstanding, we have developed a frustration. We attempt to quench this frustration with attention. We somehow think that by wearing ribbons and knitting quilts we are helping the situation. Instead we are concealing the true nature of the disease in a landfill of worthless propaganda.

Yes, AIDS is a killer. But it is only one of the innumerable afflictions that convolute the state of life. We should not compromise the lives of millions by diverting scarce resources towards what is popular. I hold a deep sympathy for the victims of AIDS, but I refuse to allow a silent majority to suffer at their expense.