21st Anniversary of AIDS Provides Time for Reassessment of Fight Against the Disease, Opinion Piece Says
June 5, which marked the 21st anniversary of the diagnosis of the first cases of what would come to be known as AIDS, provides an "appropriate time to have a sober conversation about the epidemic, to promote cautious language in how we speak of the past and future of HIV," Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, writes in an opinion piece in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. First, Pike says that people should "treat talk of a 'cure for AIDS' with considerable suspicion." He notes that "hardly anybody" in the HIV research or care communities views a cure as a real possibility any time in the near future and says that "[d]isease management" can serve as a better model for HIV/AIDS care. However, Pike states that people should not be "overly quick to proclaim AIDS a 'chronic but manageable disease.'" Although there is "some basis for the claim" because people are living longer due to antiretroviral therapy, long-term survival of HIV/AIDS is "still the exception," he writes. Pike states the world must "stop viewing AIDS as a temporary crisis and see it for what it will be: a multigenerational epidemic, with lasting implications." He notes that the disease has already resulted in the deaths of a large proportion of teachers in many countries, thus jeopardizing the educational system, and says that many areas have been "ruined agriculturally" due to a lack of workers. He adds that we "already have lost a whole generation of artists [and] civic activists" to the disease, adding that the situation will "get much, much worse before it gets better." Pike concludes, "We must continue an aggressive response to AIDS because, quite simply, it is the worst public health disaster affecting the global family in the 21st century ... [O]ur only real choice is how we act now to minimize the tragedies yet to come" (Pike, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 6/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.