Sunday, August 13, 2006

The End of AIDS

Notes on the 16th International AIDS conference that we've returned to in Toronto:

The news about AIDS is always alarmist. But, it seems likely that we'll have eliminated AIDS from the planet in the next 50 years.

There is no cure for HIV and no vaccine against it. However, the use of anti-retroviral drugs can seriously diminish the virus. I recently read in Newsweek about an HIV+ woman who is having a baby. The father does not have the virus, and there is only a 1% chance that the baby will be HIV+. This would have been impossible ten years ago.

So, while there is no cure, the virus seems to be becoming a chronic ailment, but not necessarily a fatal one. This surely counts as one of the greatest accomplishments of medical science in world history. In a secular society, doctors can become a sort of priestly class, and this can lead to the sort of hubris and arrogance that writers like Foucault warned about. On the other hand, if medical science had done nothing more than cure polio, it would be worth it.

There will not likely be a cure, but there will likely be an anti-virus pill or cream to prevent transmission. This along with aggressive anti-retroviral drugs will gradually slow the rate of new cases down to nothing. Even in Africa. Again, I think it will take at least four or five decades, but I do believe that it will happen and that the news stories that come out every few years about 'superAIDS' etc. are nonsense.

One day we will remember the people who wiped out this disease the way we remember Jonas Salk.

One day we will remember people like Jessie Helms the way we remember those poor misguided souls who burned incense to ward off the plague.


The Pagan Temple said...

But if there is no cure that means the virus is just in a state of hibernation, or suspended animation. Under those circumstances, it could eventually adapt and over time this could lead to a resurgence with a strengthened virus, one that would be immune to former treatments.

It's a weak virus, and should be cured. It can't survive exposure to open air for more than a few minutes. They could cure it if they wanted to.

Rufus said...

Well, there's certainly incentive though. The person who cures AIDS will be a millionaire several times over. Just imagine finding the drug that can cure 44 million people and charging each one ten dollars for it. I think they might eventually find a cure. But, the real hope is that they can now isolate the virus and prevent future transmission. When they can do that, they can continue extending the natural lives of people who have HIV, some of whom have had it for over 20 years now, and they can be the last generation to have it.

The newest batch of medicines that are being unveiled at the conference are designed for those people in whom the virus has built up a resistance to anti-retroviral medicines. I think they're just going to have to keep putting it down indefinitely.