Friday, November 30, 2007
HIV/AIDS has not gone away
I have been working at CNN for six years, and I am delighted that this international network has let me report on HIV/AIDS every single year. From our documentary "RU+," to the special "House Call" airing this weekend, I have tried my level best to ensure the news about this infectious disease stays on the radar screen of Americans and everyone around the world.
It has not always been easy. I was told that because of the denial surrounding HIV, people were more likely to turn the channel. Even more reason, I said, to do these important stories. And, so I have been able to travel to Bangkok and Barcelona to cover international AIDS conferences. I traveled around the United States marveling at the development of new drug cocktails but also reporting on how expensive and inaccessible they sometimes were. I was in Kenya to bring the story of a prostitute who was mysteriously immune to HIV. Scientist probed and prodded looking for the cure deep in her body. In that case, they walked away empty-handed.
Another more nuanced point is that, in some ways, we have become the victims of our own success. Therapies have improved to the point where a person infected with the virus can live a normal life span. That good news led to a resurgence of high-risk behavior a few years ago, especially among young people so confident they could rely on pills if they ever became infected. There is even a test now that can pretty reliably tell you if you are infected within 60 seconds.
Again, these have been some very positive developments, but I wonder if as a result, people don't care about HIV/AIDS as much as they used to. I used to hear about charity runs and fund raisers along with a smattering of public service announcements, but they seem to have all but vanished. The thing I found most interesting was a recent accounting of the number of AIDS cases worldwide. If you glossed over the headlines recently, you may have heard that the number of HIV/AIDS cases dropped by more than 6 million during the past year alone. If you look a little more closely, you will find most of that drop was on paper alone. It was simply due to revised numbers showing that while the worldwide cases reached 39.5 million last year, there are 33.2 million this year. Keep in mind that although that decline is due mainly to number re-jiggering, it is safe to say the AIDS pandemic is starting to lose steam. Finally.
I have had a few long talks with Bono about this very issue. He always reminds me to "also tell people the good stories about HIV," and to show people how they are making a difference. So, on World AIDS Day, we should feel better about where we are with respect to this fight. But, still, we have a lot of work to do.
Simply keeping people interested and compassionate about this issue is a good start and I am eager to hear if you have any thoughts on how to do that.
Programming note: World AIDS Day is Saturday. Watch for special coverage this weekend on "House Call" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta at 8:30 a.m. ET
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• Prescription for fitness
• Obesity stalls (and Fit Nation may have helped!)
• Do teenagers think rationally?
• New stem cells: what they could mean to you
• Autism: Finding Amanda
• Living with chronic disease... pain into action
• Dr. Gupta becomes the patient
• Typing your way to pain
• Learn to save a life in one hour
• What the nose doesn't know