Editorials Reflect on 20 Years of AIDS, Look to Future of Epidemic
Newspaper editorials reflecting on 20 years of HIV/AIDS in the media continue to appear across the country. Excerpts of some of the editorials are outlined below:
- USA Today: "AIDS remains a challenge to science and society alike; a test of technology and tolerance, of imagination and discipline," USA Today says. Yet, the editorial adds, "Factoring the victories against the failures, the nation today has reason for optimism ... Sharp and savvy grassroots pressure drove a disinterested nation to create, within a few years, a vast network to battle the disease." However, there still exists no vaccine or cure, drugs have "faltered" and renewed complacency is increasing the risk of infection. The editorial concludes, "The lessons are easy to understand and hard to apply. One is that prevention works, but that it requires constant renewal. Another is that rallying the nation's institutions -- scientific, political, communal -- against even a disease of reckless sex and illicit drugs is also possible, but also requires constant renewal. After 20 years and 450,000 deaths, the nation knows how to battle AIDS. If only those lessons were remembered" (USA Today, 6/5).
- Chicago Tribune: Describing years of denial and indifference to AIDS among Americans in the 1980s, in which many homosexuals believed the disease to be a "public relations calamity" for their community and chose to ignore it, the Tribune says, "The gay community, volunteer groups and the government cannot wait several years, as they did during the first wave of the epidemic, to face these new challenges. Efforts toward AIDS prevention and education for blacks and Hispanics ought to be increased substantially." The editorial states, "Proven risk-reduction measures, such as needle-exchange programs for intravenous drug users and treatment programs for addicts, ought to be implemented in Illinois and nationally." The editorial continues, "Whatever the problem at home, it pales in comparison to the crisis in Africa," adding, "[A]nti-AIDS campaigns in the developing world have to focus first on basic education about the disease and risk-reduction. That remains far cheaper and more effective than fighting the disease itself" (Chicago Tribune, 6/5).
- Long Beach Press Telegram: Pointing to statistics that show a 15% annual rise in the number of gay, black males between the ages of 23 and 29 and 2.5% rise for gay, white men of the same age, the Long Beach Press Telegram asks, "What part of 'AIDS kills' do young gays not understand?" Phill Wilson, executive director of the African American AIDS Policy and Training Institute in Los Angeles, said, "As a black gay man who has been living with HIV for 20 years now, a prevalence in this population of 30% and an annual incidence of 14% is reason to be alarmed no matter if the number is stable, rising or falling." Regarding increasing rates, the editorial says that they "may be the result of a feeling that even if a person develops AIDS, new drugs will help prolong their lives. That's like sticking your hand in a lawn mower, and hoping surgeons might be able to reattach it. ... Let's hope people who have multiple sex partners ... gay or straight ... realize that AIDS at this moment is a slow and awful death that can be prevented" (Long Beach Press Telegram, 6/4).
- Newark Star-Ledger: The recent announcement by the CDC that HIV infections are again on the rise among young gay men should "serve as a stark reminder and potent warning about letting our guard down against this disease," a Newark Star-Ledger editorial states. "No one with good sense ever thought the gay AIDS problem was solved. But gay men were the group that seemed to prove that education and safer sex practices could work," the editorial continues. "The factors pushing the increase among gay men may not be unique to them ... We should have learned from the early days of AIDS that what happens in one segment of the population is a marker for what can happen in others. We should also have learned that barriers between groups are not as impenetrable as some might think," the editorial states. "We need more research to pin down infection trends. But stepped-up prevention efforts, with an emphasis on black gay men, should not wait for more study results. Preaching prevention will not hurt anybody," the editorial concludes (Newark Star-Ledger, 6/4).
- Fresno Bee: "The 20-year anniversary of the AIDS epidemic is bringing us strangely full circle," a Fresno Bee editorial states. Although the number of overall infections appears to have "plateaued" at 40,000 a year, infections are increasing among minorities and people between the ages of 13 and 24. The success of drug therapies has lulled the public, including those in the "highest risk groups," into a "dangerous complacency," the editorial continues. "We must not be lulled into thinking the AIDS virus has been put to sleep, only to be awakened by a shock to the heart when our loved ones begin to die," the editorial concludes (Fresno Bee, 6/4).
- New York Post: "The battle against AIDS ... has politicized what should be strictly a public-health concern," a New York Post editorial states. This "politicization" of the disease has led to more federal money being spent on AIDS research than on research for cancer or heart disease, although both of the latter diseases kill "far more people" each year, the editorial continues. Although AIDS is a "terrifying" disease, other infectious diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, kill "huge numbers" of people but lack the research dollars AIDS garners. "This is not to minimize the threat that AIDS poses, here or abroad. It's a terrible, terrifying disease. But individuals can reduce that threat through responsible personal behavior," the editorial concludes, adding that "it's that simple" (New York Post, 6/4).
- San Francisco Chronicle: "Two decades after AIDS was first recognized, mortality statistics are stunning and prospects for the future are grim," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial states. "The numbers of infected people are so huge and the suffering so vast as to be almost beyond comprehension," the editorial adds. "A vaccine, the Holy Grail of AIDS research, offers a glint of hope on a far horizon, but the ever-mutating virus is as elusive as it is deadly," the editorial continues. Calling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's creation of a global AIDS trust fund for the developing world a "start," the editorial urges the world's wealthy nations and corporations to "be willing to ignore borders, forgo profits and take fast action to halt the advancing plague before it is too late" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3).
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The 20th anniversary of the first report of AIDS is "not a celebratory anniversary"; however it is "one worth noting," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states. Although anti-AIDS drugs have made a "huge difference" in disease progression, prevention is still the "main weapon" in the fight against the disease. An "even more aggressive public education about safe sex as well as increased availability and access to HIV testing and counseling" is needed, the editorial states. Calling for the implementation of needle-exchange programs, the editorial notes that CDC studies have shown exchange programs to be "effective" and to not cause an increase in drug use. "The federal government ... needs to put aside politics and irrational fears of appearing soft on drugs and lift its ban on funding for needle exchange," the editorial concludes (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/2).
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "AIDS is on the rise once more in the United States thanks in no small part to complacency and ignorance," a South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial states. "No one should be lulled into a false sense of security that AIDS attacks only gay and bisexual men. ... AIDS is everyone's problem," the editorial continues. "Government, community and churches need to form partnerships to get the word out about testing and prevention, especially in communities hardest hit by the AIDS virus," but "[f]irst, ignorance and complacency must be overcome," the editorial concludes (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/2).