Friday, February 15, 2008

Interesting developments on the AIDS frontiers

I suspect you might have missed one or another of the big-news events on the AIDS fronts. Nobel laureate and current president of the AAAS David Baltimore used his keynote address to the AAAS meeting this year to suggest that there's a distinct possibility (not to say high likelihood) that we won't be getting a successful preventive HIV vaccine ever.

The excitement over findings that male circumcision might drastically reduce HIV risk should be somewhat cooled down, because another study since discovered in the USA that that actually wasn't the case for circumcised black and latino men who have sex with other men.

Another piece in the puzzle is a consensus statement from HIV/AIDS specialists in Switzerland who declared that it is impossible for an HIV infected person to pass the infection on to his or her sex partners if she's on HAART and has a viral load of less than 40 copies/ml. In other words, successful medical control of the infection renders infected people non-infectious for all intent and purposes.

Indeed, it has even been suggested by some scientists that pre-exposure prophylaxis might work (ie people who are at high risk of getting infected should take AIDS drugs as a preventative means). Of course, today's AIDS drugs are essentially chemotherapeutics, so to suggest that healthy people at risk of HIV infection take them permanently (or at least while they engage in high-risk activities) seems a difficult to accept proposition, yet it might well work (just as post-exposure prophylaxis works) while there's no vaccine.

However, all of these discussions seem to be indicative of an ever-growing desperation among HIV specialists resulting from the absence of a working vaccine. The ongoing AIDS epidemics among the peoples of Southern Africa and the Caribbean suggest strongly that only so much can be achieved by throwing condoms at people... and so much, quite possibly, just isn't good enough. This is not the type of politically correct message the safe sex industry likes to hear, but surely the pandemic would not continue to run at such high speed if the safe sex campaigners had made significant inroads during the last few decades. To be fair, it might be that safe sex is currently more or less all there is, but it would be wrong to pretend that it is 'working' as they say.

Of course, living in North America these days, I do have access to truly bizarre religious cable channels. This crowd is actually trying to persuade Africans not to use condoms and instead be abstinent. I watched a fundraising programs from them the other day, in which these folks deliberately spread falsehoods such that condoms have little holes in them thru which HIV can spread anyway, and other such nonsense. It boggles the mind. The biggest lies were peddled by a guy in a black (long) skirt with a white collar - he claims, of course, to never have had sex in his whole life. These are the types of characters that, in yet another wave of Western colonialism, travel to Africa and try to persuade rural Africans to forgo the use of condoms when they've sexual intercourse.

Scary stuff. Well, it seems there's always someone out there to make matters worse, and the religious squad is never far from where that happens. As ever, due to some waffle about religious freedom, they cannot even be held accountable in a court of law for spreading lies.

1 comment:

  1. Go easy on our religious brethren LOL.


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