|The Courier N° 145 - May - June 1994- Dossier : European Union: the Way forward - Country Report: Ethiopia (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)|
Over the last two years, reports have been appearing in a British newspaper to the effect that the AIDS crisis is a myth In a series of lengthy articles, the publication concerned has given prominence to the views of a small number of practitioners and voluntary aid workers who take the view that the number of cases of HI V infection has been greatly exaggerated. The motives of those working in international bodies and NGOs to halt the spread of the disease have been called in to question. Developing country governments have been accused of 'talking up' the problem to attract sympathy and funding. Astonishingly, even the central proposition that HIV infection leads to the development of fullblown AlDS has been disputed.
How much credence should we give to these claims? The answer is quite clear - none whatsoever The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that AIDS is still with us and is still spreading, even if some of the early apocalyptic predictions are now recognised as having been too pessimistic It is a cruel deception to imply that because the incidence of AIDS is (mercifully) lower than was first feared, we should stop taking it so seriously. That would be a sure way of increasing the spread of the infection The prevalence of HIV in some areas, in particular in developing countries, is still frighteningly high and, with no cure yet in sight, the importance of prevention remains paramount.
Thanks to information campaigns by health authorities across the world, most people are now aware of how the HI V virus is spread The principal source of transmission is sexual contact and a lot of effort and money has gone into educating people about the ways of minimising the danger. Sadly, these efforts risk being undermined by irresponsible press reports which, at best, sow confusion and, at worst, lull people into a false sense of security. It is an alarming fact that the 'AIDS is a myth ' claim has been repeated, in some cases uncritically, in a number of newspapers and journals that circulate in developing countries. There must be a real fear that this will persuade some people to revert to old habits, thereby increasing the risk of contracting HIV.
In these circumstances, we all have to shout louder to drown out the siren voices. Every time the 'myth ' claim is given coverage in the media, it must be rebutted. We must also counter the insidious and unwarranted suggestion that people who contract the disease 'have only themselves to blame'.
The message is a simple one - don't let down your guard HIV-AIDS is a terrible pandemic and we need to do everything possible to combat it.