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Some other numbers
December 1, 2002 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Some other numbers "During the period known as the Aids epidemic, 14 million people died of heart disease while 9 million succumbed to cancer, which is 8.5 million more than those counted for AIDS." And Aids is 100% preventable too. So why all the focus on it, to the exclusion of other diseases that pose much more horrible threats to us?
posted by bonaldi (11 comments total)

 
Because AIDS is preventable. The more money, educational effort, and research time spent on it, the more people can be stopped from ever getting it in the first place. Also, I don't see heart disease and cancer destabilizing entire countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

This has already been addressed on MetaTalk, by the way.
posted by hippugeek at 5:52 PM on December 1, 2002


HIV/AIDS is communicable. It has already exacted a horrible toll, and if people don't pay attention, this toll will get much, much worse... in the way that epidemics of communicable diseases do, and in a way that other diseases do not. And while it is largely preventable, it is (as per hippugeek) not going to be prevented without vigilance.
posted by stonerose at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2002


I think that the preventable nature is probably why it is more prominent. The prevailing opinion is that everything on earth in some way causes cancer, there's not a whole lot you can do to prevent it aside from early detection. Heart disease has a lot to do with genetics, though smoking and eating poorly also are contributing factors. You can't entirely prevent cancer and heart disease from striking you or a loved one, but you can (given information and good pracitices) prevent HIV/AIDS.

While there may be a virtual onslaught of information about HIV/AIDS now, it took a good number of years before people talked openly about it. A lot of people died in the early 80s based on misinformation and ignorance, and perhaps today's HIV/AIDS education has overcompensated for that fact, I'll give you that.

But imagine the flipside where information about how to contract the virus isn't well known, where would the US be right now with 20 years of a growing spread of plauge? The low numbers of actual deaths in the US (in proportion to other illnesses) demonstrates why all the attention is a good thing: it saved a lot of lives.

While non-drug using heterosexuals in the US have a lower chance of ever coming in contact with the disease, it really is reaching epidemic proportions in Africa, and is worth talking about and watching. To bring this around to current events, Bill at Whump.com had an interesting observation. At the current rates of infection in Africa, there may be 40 million children orphaned in the next ten years by parents succumbing to the disease. Keep in mind this is in a region with several countries that practice fundamentalist Islam. Ignoring the problem over there today could spell disaster in the next decade.
posted by mathowie at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2002


Because it has the potential to kill so many people, and its infection rates are accelerating at incredibly fast paces, whereas heart disease and cancer are relatively steady rates?

See Africa, China, and India for examples of countries that are currently facing huge epidemics from AIDS. The US is doing better. Why? Because we're educating and focusing on it.
posted by gramcracker at 8:18 PM on December 1, 2002


Another reason why HIV's gotten so much attention is that it, on average, affects a much younger population than heart disease and cancer does and therefore tends to take a lot more years from a life.
posted by shoos at 8:28 PM on December 1, 2002


Bonaldi, in what way is there a focus on AIDS "to the exclusion of other diseases"?

That aside (plus the fact that your numbers are only for the U.S.), there are a few ways in which AIDS is a more serious threat. Unlike heart disease and cancer, it kills young as well as old; it can cripple a society, and is in fact doing so in Africa (as hippugreek and others noted). It's communicable (as has also been noted), and once a certain percentage of a population is infected, it may be virtually impossible to protect the remaining population from the disease. It gets passed on to future offspring. And it's terminal. An uncurable, terminal disease spreading among a society's most productive members and essentially ending their reproductive lives is about as "horrible" a threat as threats get.

(Like we need another reason why 3 million plus deaths a year is a bad thing. For crying out loud.)
posted by mattpfeff at 8:33 PM on December 1, 2002


mattpfeff: Bonaldi, in what way is there a focus on AIDS "to the exclusion of other diseases"?

Ummm, do you notice MeFi, or any other sites for that matter, doing conspicuous style and content changes for coronary artery disease (the leading cause of death in the United States) awareness, or diabetes awareness & prevention? Do you even know when those national organizations (American Heart Association & American Diabetes Association, respectively) promote those days?

The only other disease that even comes close is *female* breast cancer awareness -- pink ribbons, "walks for life," and so on. [I say "female," because some events do not allow men, even men who have survived breast cancer, to participate.] I know this will sound cynical and like flame-bait, but I really don't mean it that way: it seems as though some diseases are more "fashionable" than others, or have become more of a "cause" than others, irrespective of the actual numbers of those with the diseases or who will die of them. Of course I support AIDS research, just as I support research on other diseases; it just seems that the political and social pressure behind the AIDS "cause" has led to a disproportionate amount of funding, given other diseases with higher rates of infection, morbidity, and mortality.

As for AIDS/HIV being communicable, so is hepatitis, which is also incurable and has a high mortality rate. Hepatitis is also arguably more easily and more likely to be contracted by people not in any particular high-risk groups. Where's the site re-do for Hepatitis Awareness Day?
posted by wdpeck at 9:15 PM on December 1, 2002


Well, if you feel like questioning the point, bring it up in MetaTalk and I'd be happy to discuss it there.
posted by mathowie at 12:11 AM PST on December 1


Though I suggest reading a few of the links first...
posted by dash_slot- at 9:45 PM on December 1, 2002


Ummm, do you notice MeFi, or any other sites for that matter, doing conspicuous style and content changes for coronary artery disease (the leading cause of death in the United States) awareness, or diabetes awareness & prevention? Do you even know when those national organizations (American Heart Association & American Diabetes Association, respectively) promote those days?

But how is any of this exclusive? (Hell, how does it even detract from concern about other diseases? I mean, sure, today we're saying, We should talk about AIDS. But no one, nowhere, is saying not to talk about the others in any relevant sense, or that AIDS is generally more important somehow. Just that it's important enough to talk about today. Do you not agree?)
posted by mattpfeff at 9:59 PM on December 1, 2002


We certainly know that diseases are susceptible to fashion. Who, for example, is the celebrity spokesperson for lupus? There is none.

I don't think it's too cynical to at least point out that AIDS, in the West, has disproportionately affected gay men; and gay men are disproportionately represented in the arts. The HIV lobby has skilfully leveraged this natural, um, advantage, as it were. I don't believe we need begrudge this, but it shouldn't cloud our judgement, either.
posted by dhartung at 10:30 PM on December 1, 2002


A lot of the causes of heart disease are also entirely preventable. Imagine if going to MacDonald's three times a week gave you AIDS instead of heart disease... Or eating a bag of pork rinds every Sunday while watching TV and drinking beer had the same result...

from mattpfaff and bonaldi: Some numbers. 14 million in 2002 comes out to some 38 300 a day, 1590 an hour, and almost 27 a minute. Each minute. Each hour. Each day. Deaths. Of Heart Disease.

(This is not to trivialize the effect that AIDS is having on many people.)
posted by ruwan at 11:09 PM on December 1, 2002


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