And here we are again, since 1988 December 1st marks the World AIDS Day.
It’s again time to increase the awareness campaigns and pull some attention to a subject that tends to be somewhat forgotten in the other 364 days of the year (specially by our beloved leaders).
I don’t want to go through numbers. For those, a very nice resource is the UNAIDS site and their 2007 AIDS epidemic update report (pdf). It seems that in some regions things are getting better while in others the numbers cast a deeper shadow.
Why the frustration over the subject
Today, on one of those rare time windows that I actually managed to sit down and spend 15 minutes in front of the TV, CNN was reporting on the situation on a Sub-Saharan country. They traveled to a village where, as in most of the region, HIV orphans unfortunately tend to be in big numbers, specifically to a “family” of three children (4, 6 and 14 years old) that just had to fend for themselves. The younger one is HIV positive and was denied life-improving retroviral treatment by the local health authorities because “he was still not sick enough to qualify”. Ok, I understand that with the humongous amount of people requiring the drugs, some sorting needs to be implemented, but also knowing that the power and efficiency of current anti-retroviral drugs is at its best in the early onset of infection, my question is that if the little kid would qualify in one or two years when the probability for high efficiency of the treatment is reduced or if, by then, he would be again sorted out with a “he’s too sick to qualify”.
We all know that the investment in research has favorably increased and great discoveries have been made on the HIV characterization, mechanisms of infection, potential vaccine targets, and treatments that, although won’t eliminate the infection, are able to increase life expectancy and quality. And we also know that the major research advancements have been made by normal scientist teams in academia, one little step at a time. Big pharma companies tend to grab those little steps and create the enabling technology for effective drug development. That is all fine and well but of course prevents any scientist from going there and saying “Hey, I also contributed something for all of this, so go to that little 4 year old kid and give them the drugs he needs, even if it means less profit for you”. Only the pharmaceutical companies together with political leaders have the ability to do this. Pharma companies tend to go for profits and political leaders have more pressing matters to think about like oil prices and such.
So, little kid (and all the thousands of little kids like you), you won’t get the drugs that could potentially save your life.
Did I come to science for this?
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