Ed Driscoll

"Why AIDS?"

In a typically thought provoking post, Neo-Neocon begins by posting a question from one her readers:

I’ve always wondered why AIDS is such a “hip” and “cool” cause. Malaria kills 3 times as many and there are very effective ways to prevent and cure it. I hear nothing but crickets chirping when mentioned as number 4 on the list of “worlds deadliest killer”. So pardon my skepticism at the tears shed for AIDS victims. It has nothing to do with caring. I guess Bono or Elizabeth Taylor don’t have friends with malaria.

10,700,000 children died in the world last year and 57% were from causes incident to malaria. That’s just the children.

She replies:

I haven’t checked on anonymous’s statistics, but it’s my impression that the general point he/she is making is correct: fighting the scourge of malaria is not particularly chic or popular in this country as compared to combatting AIDS. So, what goes on here?

I’ll take a stab at an answer. My take on it is that a new disease will always gets more attention than an old one because people are accustomed to the latter, and the new one grabs their interest at first merely because it is new. And I am in agreement that a disease that affects the US and western Europe instead of mainly Africa or other third-world countries (AIDS, as opposed to malaria) will definitely provoke more interest, because in the case of the former, “the bell tolls for thee.” It is just human nature to be more upset about something that can potentially affect you and your loved ones rather than strangers in a far-off place.

I think there’s something else going on as well. The idea of a disease spread by the type of sexual behavior that was championed during the sexual revolution of the 60s is particularly threatening to the generation that grew up during that time. There was supposed to be no downside to such liberation, and it’s a bitter and difficult pill to swallow when the dreams of the 60s die (sometimes it seems as though there are no dreams of the 60s that haven’t died). The fact that AIDS first appeared, at least in the western world, in the gay male population–which had so recently undergone its own liberation–was also highly ironic and difficult for those who had championed that cause. So it’s no surprise that the anti-AIDS campaign would be especially well-supported among people who believe in those other causes.

Read the rest, as well as the comments, which are spot-on, including this one:

The sovereign treatment for malaria is DDT, which is worse than plutonium or something, according to the Silent Spring school of environmental wonderfulness.

Talking about malaria and the zillions of death since Rachel Carson wrote her book would point a finger at those who are, although impossible to embarrass, interested in avoiding blame.

I concur.