Government Repression in China, Myanmar Encourages Spread of HIV, New York Times Editorial Says
Information "is a necessary disinfectant" in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, however "[i]t cannot be put to use in societies where everything is perfect by decree," a New York Times editorial states, adding, "Today, government repression in many countries encourages the spread of AIDS." The fight against AIDS "requires honesty about infection rates and a willingness to work with marginalized groups," such as drug users, commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, the Times says. Government repression in both China and Myanmar has prevented many people in those countries from being educated about HIV prevention, encouraging the virus' spread, the editorial says. Although China has made progress in acknowledging "the titanic dimensions of its AIDS epidemic," much more needs to be done to educate the country's population, which "still knows shockingly little" about the disease, the Times states. The editorial concludes, "Today, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is showing that dictatorship is ... a health hazard when it comes to infectious diseases" (New York Times, 4/17).
Lack of Openness on SARS Mirrors AIDS Response, Lancet Says
China's lack of openness about SARS closely resembles the country's "historic" response to other health crises, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a Lancet editorial states. Data on HIV/AIDS cases is still "inadequate" in China, although there is "some evidence for optimism" in the fact that the government in recent years has improved its suicide statistics reporting, the editorial says. According to the Lancet, a concerted effort to compile accurate statistics about HIV/AIDS would "demonstrate that China is able to learn from its mistakes, and agile and wise enough to acknowledge its responsibilities not only to its own citizens but also to the rest of the world." The Lancet editorial concludes, "In an ever-shrinking world, technical information can and must be successfully divorced from political concerns, and data important for public health must be made freely available to the scientific and professional communities" (Lancet, 4/19).