Fight Against AIDS Hindered by Treatment as ‘Political Problem’ Rather Than Public Health Crisis, Washington Times Opinion Piece Says
The viewpoint in China that severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is a "political problem" instead of a "medical disaster in the making ... still dominates the approach to controlling the spread of HIV globally," Robert Goldberg, director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. However, the more international fight against SARS has avoided the "mistakes" being made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which has been defined as a "political and legal battle, a civil rights movement instead of a public health crisis," Goldberg says. According to Goldberg, SARS and HIV are the same in that a person can test positive for the virus yet fail to show symptoms, meaning that the "only way to control it is through testing, screening and education." But Goldberg says that AIDS advocates' concerns that mandatory HIV testing violates a person's constitutional right to privacy and that home HIV testing kits do not offer face-to-face counseling has cast the disease as "a civil rights and cultural movement." According to Goldberg, AIDS advocacy has recently become a "crusade against global capitalism," with advocates "blaming patent-protected drugs for the spread of the disease" and "insist[ing] on a treatment model that requires the purchase of vast quantities of HIV drugs from generic firms." He adds that the global AIDS bill current before Congress is "putting the horse before the cart" since "most of the money ... will be spent on buying drugs" (Goldberg, Washington Times, 5/15). The House earlier this month approved the bill (HR 1298), sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), which would authorize $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. The bill would authorize $3 billion a year for five years for international HIV/AIDS programs, with up to $1 billion in fiscal year 2004 going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/14). According to Goldberg, a treatment-centered approach to fighting HIV/AIDS will "continue to cost lives." Goldberg concludes that the fight against SARS has "avoid[ed] the mistakes we are making in our approach to HIV," demonstrating "why we may have a chance to control the spread of SARS and [why] HIV will never be contained" (Washington Times, 5/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.