Two thirds of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine is awarded to Francoise Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of HIV, the virus that cause AIDS (the last third of the Prize goes to Harald zur Hausen for the discovery that the human papilloma virus causes cervical cancer). Although it is now 25 years since HIV was first isolated we are no closer of finding a cure/vaccine for it. It is becoming more and more clear that if our biggest interest lies in eradicating HIV we need to stop wasting time and money on medical research.
I have mentioned it before on this blog (e.g. Thabo Mbeki should have won Nobel Prize in medicine) that the HIV-virus has an almost unique combination of traits, which makes it so successful in spreading and avoiding being “caught”. The fact that HIV attacks our immune system’s “virus defence”, and that it constantly mutates is bad enough. An extra fuel to this fire is that the virus predominately spreads by sexual contact and has a very long incubation time.
Being that it is the less developed countries that are hit the most by the HIV plague. It feels almost somewhat immoral to do research for vaccines/cures that most of the HIV-exposed people in the world won’t be able to afford. The focus should instead be directed towards many of the so-called secondary causes to AIDS. The rapid spread of HIV is much due to the very intense promiscuous human nature, which is probably best addressed by ABC (Abstinence, Being Faithful, Condomise).
Moreover, it has been suggested that high food prices have a significant effect on both proactive and reactive HIV/AIDS measures. As can be found in a very interesting article by Peace Nganwa there are several less obvious causes to the spread of HIV, which all can be linked to food insecurity (see How high food prices increase the risk of HIV). For example high food prices forces many poor families to pull out their children from school, which deprives them of education about HIV/AIDS and ABC.
Although I have said it before, I will say it again. The battle against HIV/AIDS will not be won in the medical research labs, it can only be won out in the field. Efforts need to be put into minimize the secondary causes of the spread of HIV/AIDS. This has to be done by a change of attitudes, especially among politicians, and change of social and political structures. I am not entirely sure who will be best suited for this job, but I think there is a potential among the people that live in HIV-infested areas, and understand how the disease is linked to many other factors in society. If these people would be given the same resources as medical researches, I am sure they would be more successful in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
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