It is not a traditional holiday that pushes cards at the local Hallmark store, but December 1 has been recognized as World AIDS Day since the late 1980s. While education, awareness and pharmaceutical efforts have advanced, a world with a growing HIV/ AIDS population still lacks a cure.
Mainstream media love to paint AIDS as a disease of gay men and drug users, while the reality is that men and women of all colors and orientations — and even their children — in every nation suffer the stigma. Not to discount the element of personal responsibility and lifestyle factors, but if you are not part of the solution, certainly you contribute to the problem. Our country’s leaders: I’m looking at you.
As politicians seem to disagree about everything from the carpet selection in the Capitol to homeland security, the discussion of the relatively silent AIDS epidemic is noticeably absent from the U.S. policy conversation.
Without directly addressing the specific affliction, lawmakers have the power to reform health care policies that will expand access to treatment, create possible prevention, and promote education for safer sex. It doesn’t help matters that the Food and Drug Administration drug approval process is slower than a metropolitan freeway on a Friday evening. The number of clinical trials supported domestically and internationally could make a difference in the spread of the disease or manage the effects of living with it, but no clear support from our legislature is in place.
In our nation’s education system, young people are going without the sex education that is often considered taboo where, in some areas, abstinence-only programs are the only information within reach. GOP Candidate Rick Santorum would sooner return Creationism to the lesson plans at your child’s school than allow a discussion of contraception. He is not an extremist for this belief; I’m sure it’s a widely shared (lack of) value among his party and its constituents.
If research continues to gain support, and access to health care and education is expanded to all areas, the topic of AIDs could someday become a distant past concern, something maybe our grandchildren’s children will look back upon as our generation views the bubonic plague. But, nobody — especially no government — has ever successfully solved a problem by simply ignoring it. The leaky faucet will eventually flood a basement.
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