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Bradford's Essay
On HIV: Science, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Government and Media
Bradford's Essay
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Science, Medical, Pharmaceutical, Government and Media
by Bradford McIntyre



Resource: UNAIDS Fact Sheet (2002)

  • 38.6 million adults and 3.2 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2002.
  • 14 million children orphaned since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • In Sub Saharan Africa, 29.4 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.
  • In North Africa and the Middle East, 550,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.
  • UNAIDS estimates that 700,000 adults, 450,000 of them men, became infected in South and Southeast Asia during the course of the year 2001. Overall, as of the end of 2002, the region is estimated to have 6.0 million adults and children living with HIV or AIDS.
  • In East Asia and the Pacific, 270,000 adults and children became infected in the course of the year 2002. This brings the number of people living with HIV or AIDS at end of 2002 to 1.2 million.
  • In India, with a population of one billion people, there are an estimated 3.8 million adults living with HIV/AIDS.
  • In China, 1.5 million people are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS. It has been estimated that almost 1 million people have been infected with HIV in Thailand since the beginning of the epidemic.
  • Latin America has 1.5 Million, with a total of 150,000 newly infected. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 50% of those infected are women.
  • Caribbean has 440,000 with a total of 60,000 newly infected. AIDS is the leading cause of death in several Caribbean countries, including Haiti and the Bahamas. AIDS is the single greatest cause of death for Caribbean people ages 15-44.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia have 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS. 250,000 people newly infected with HIV in 2002.
  • Western Europe has an estimated 570,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and 30,000 people newly infected.

Russia has more HIV infection than all of Western Europe combined. Official statistics say there are more than 200,000 HIV-infected people in Russia. Federation Council International Relations Committee Chair, Mikhail Margelov said he believes the actual number is closer to 1 million. If current rates of infection continue, 10 million to 12 million Russians may become infected with HIV by 2010. In Moscow, 22,300 HIV-positive individuals are registered. Half of the newly identified HIV-positive cases in 2002 were aged 19 to 25.

Mikhail Margelov said, "AIDS is a problem for every country and international efforts must be employed to fight the disease."

The proportion of adults living with HIV/AIDS who are women has been steadily increasing. In 2001, 50% of those infected with HIV or living with AIDS were women. AIDS now ranks as one of the leading causes of death among women aged 20 to 40 in several cities in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and North America.

Many people still have the belief that HIV and AIDS only affects homosexuals! However, 75% of the world population infected with HIV is heterosexual. The United Nations predicts "AIDS will cut population by 300 million; 300 million fewer people in the world by the year 2050 from the impact of AIDS." The United Nations is predicting the biggest rises in AIDS deaths to be in China (estimated 40 million) and India (estimated 47 million). The population of sub-Saharan Africa will be 19% lower.

In the United States, there are 980,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and 45,000 newly infected. In Canada, 65,000 people are infected with HIV. The rates of infection among our aboriginal population in Canada are reported to rival the worst hit areas of Africa! HIV infection among aboriginal people is twice the rate of infection in non-aboriginal people.

Here in Vancouver, British Columbia, 10,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS and HIV infection is on the rise amongst injection drug users. Similarly, in Pakistan, the International Narcotics Council Board reports HIV/AIDS is rising among the estimated half a million drug addicts. In a population of 140 million people, it is estimated there are 80,000 HIV positive people in Pakistan.

At the 20th Vancouver Annual International AIDS Candlelight Vigil 2003, James Johnstone said, "Since 1983, there have been 21.8 million deaths due to HIV/AIDS. In 2002, 5 million people became infected with HIV. In 2002, 3.1 million deaths were caused from HIV/AIDS, a higher global total than in any other year since the epidemic, despite antiretroviral therapies which reduced HIV/AIDS deaths in the world's richer countries."

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS), along with 189 United Nations members, have drafted a Declaration of Commitment stating, "HIV/AIDS is a global economic, social and development issue of the highest priority and the single greatest threat to the well-being of future generations in many parts of the world."

There is no doubt this situation is going to have an enormous effect on all our lives. As well, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated 170 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. This figure is four times the number infected with HIV. With these known statistics, one can only ponder the increase on our already strained health care systems. When will our eyes be opened to what is going on all around us? When will sufficient funds be made available and monies applied to health care and health care incorporating all means of treatment? I never expected to live to see the present state of things and I am shocked by our provincial and federal cutbacks to health care in Canada.

Cutbacks make us vulnerable because we don't have the necessary doctors, nurses and health care providers. Over the years, our doctors and nurses have been overworked and underpaid causing many to move and take jobs in the United States and elsewhere. Hospitals and complementary treatment centres have been closed due to funding reductions, when we should be building these centres! There have been cutbacks to AIDS funding and research and cutbacks of funding to AIDS organizations.

"Canada is failing to honour its commitment to combat HIV/AIDS nationally and internationally", says United Nations Special Envoy Stephen Lewis. He states, "The federal government has frozen funding for prevention, treatment and research for a decade at the level set by Brian Mulroney's Conservative government and the effects are shocking."

The Canadian government is also failing to provide the necessary resources to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C in prisons.

"Some jurisdictions have totally and abysmally failed to wake up to the reality of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and injection drug use in prisons", says executive director Ralf Jurgens, "...known cases of HIV/AIDS increased by over 35% in four years."

The Liberal, provincial government of British Columbia (Canada) has made HIV a reportable illness in BC, making it less likely for individuals to get tested or seek out medical care. The fear of discrimination will only fuel the stigma attached to HIV and increase HIV infection, both of which, many have worked tirelessly to erase. Government cutbacks are seriously affecting people living with HIV and all disabilities. Disability and welfare benefits were already inadequate, forcing people to live 50% below the poverty line, putting children and families at risk of crisis and denying people basic human rights. With the state of our current Health care system, it will be impossible for us to afford the demands placed on us by HIV/AIDS.

We can no longer continue as we have! Health care is homeland security and health care is on everyone's mind, regardless of where you live! We must work together and use every available means. We must provide the room for others to be given the opportunity to express their ideas. People infected with HIV have been instrumental in advancing the knowledge of complementary treatment choices when dealing with HIV and it is imperative to emphasize options other than pharmaceuticals! We need more visibility when it comes to treatment options such as supplements and complementary therapies for treating individuals infected with HIV and all disease!

Initially, there were no drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS, but substantial numbers of infected individuals collaborated, shared experiences and found an alternative way. Without medications, people incorporated proper nutrition, exercise and complementary therapies into their lives. People have been successful at staying healthy and/or having wellness restored time after time using complementary therapies, with or without HIV/AIDS medications. We must acknowledge and give credibility to this reality! We must acknowledge all of the many contributions by people infected with HIV. They are the same people who raised funds and started AIDS organizations, thereby providing and developing treatment libraries, which contained files on all the alternative treatments used by people living with HIV/AIDS. When HIV/AIDS drugs did become available, HIV/AIDS research and drug treatment information was included in these libraries.

Researchers, pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession have learned valuable information from infected individuals. Those affected were responsible for instituting what is referred to as treatment holidays, or structured treatment interruptions. A daily regimen while confined to a lifestyle of taking medications and the fact that many were unable to handle the side effects of the HIV/AIDS medications, prompted individuals to stop taking their medications, for months or years. The knowledge gained from these people opened the eyes of researchers and the medical profession. This facilitated change and stopped the insanity of the HIV/AIDS treatment protocol referred to as 'Hit them hard, hit them early'! It is because of the information gained from people living with HIV that we have moved on and recognition is now given to the importance of individualized treatments. People who have been infected have brought about the understanding of which drugs work and which do not. In this way, they have voiced the need for more effective and affordable drug treatments -- and more!

However, there is an abundance of information, which is not being provided by infected individuals and obviously, this can be attributed to the stigma attached to HIV. Because of the fear, there are people who are not reporting how they are managing their illness. Their status is not known, so they cannot be counted. The numbers of individuals who have chosen natural methods is substantial. Without all the voices of those people heard, this has allowed pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession to have a monopoly over the direction of treatment and treatment information. It is time for affected people to make a stand and have their voices heard! The use of HIV/AIDS medications is one direction of treatment and natural healing with the benefits of complementary therapies is another. Both must be recognized equally! Time, energy and money must be given to both if we are to save millions and millions of lives!

...positive attitudes are not simply 'moods'

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