Today, we remember.

The commemeration of December 1 as World AIDS Day began in 1988, at a London meeting of health ministers from 140 different countries. It was as an effort to increase awareness of people suffering from the disease and to reduce prejudice. Even then, when AIDS was widely presumed to be a disease affecting only gays, drug users and other degenerates, its potential to wreak wide scale destruction of lives and societies must have been obvious.

However, there is a problem with saying that AIDS is a disease equally likely to strike anyone. Actually, there are two problems. First, it's a piss-poor reason for caring, and the stress placed on the argument plays into the idea that some people "deserve" AIDS, even if others don't. Second, the argument is not true. This year, 95% of the 5 million(!) reported new HIV infections occurred in the developing world. Of the remaining 5%, 60% resulted from homosexual sex, 25% from drug injection, and only 15% from heterosexual sex. Doing the math, that means that 0.75% of all new cases occur in decent, moral people that we're supposed to care about. We need a better argument to drum up support for a cure. How 'bout the fact that if 4/5 of the world becomes engulfed by AIDS, they might decide they have nothing to lose and become a serious threat to first world hegemony? Or that if such a large number of people are suffering, the rest of us cannot avoid similar suffering, simply by being members of the same race?

Since 1988, the number of confirmed HIV/AIDS cases worldwide has increased more than a hundredfold, to around 40 million today, and the vast majority of these do not have access to wildly hyped drug "cocktails" featuring protease inhibitors (which have helped many live longer and healthier lives). International pharmaceutical companies have consistently valued their patent protections over greater access. Tens of thousands a day are knowingly sacrificed for higher profits.

There is a lot going on in western countries to try to turn back the tide. Much of this work simply has to do with raising awareness, and pressuring officials to act morally. One organization that has made the transition to a global scale almost as well as the disease itself if ACT-UP, one of the oldest AIDS advocacy organizations. Others, including AMFAR and UNAIDS take less strident positions. All of them need your help.

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