Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

World AIDS Day

TODAY is World AIDS Day. Many blogs are doing blogging about it; Link and Think encourages bloggers to publish their own reflections about AIDS. MetaFilter is doing an all-AIDS link-a-thon today.

1. To me, one of the most remarkable things about HIV is that it was so unexpected. By the 1940's and '50's, the future course of medicine was clear: all the major diseases were known; they would be conquered one by one; public health measures were well-established in the developed world, and needed lots of work in the developing world. Until the 1980's, this happened. We were making slow, steady progress in many areas.

No one expected a new infectious disease to come out of nowhere, infect 40 of million people, kill 10 million, leave millions of children orphaned, and threaten the future of a continent.

We should have anticipated this. Viruses mutate. A lot. Ever hear of the 'English Sweats'? It was a disease that scorched through England beginning in the late 15th century. The victim would rapidly become ill, break out into a drenching sweat (probably from fever) and die, usually within 24 hours. Some English towns lost half to two-thirds their population. Shakespeare mentions it, in the epilogue to Henry IV, Part 2:

For anything I know Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your hard opinions.

 There were several outbreaks of the English Sweats in the early 16th century. Then it disappeared. No one has seen anything like it since. What was it? Probably a virus, which through chance mutation had become extremely virulent. Too virulent for its own good: it quickly killed off all its available hosts, then died itself. The most successful viruses are those that cause the least damage, like the common cold.

HIV may have happened that way. Or it may have been present in chimps for a million years, and the 'mutation' was a change in human sexual behavior, and human travel patterns. The English Sweats will happen again. Nature is like that. We got a little too complacent. It's like that line from Jurassic Park: Life will find a way. Life wants to fill ecological niches. It will evolve to do so; if we provide new niches, something will fill them. HIV won't be the last new infectious disease epidemic.

The other thought I have today about HIV is that it is a sexually transmitted disease. Just like every other sexually transmitted disease, of which there are many. One of the things that is so sad about HIV is that like other STD's, and unlike the English Sweats, it is almost entirely preventable by individual choice. Limit your number of sexual partners. Don't have sex with someone unless you know they are HIV-negative. At the very least, use condoms, but realize that they reduce the risk, they do not eliminate it.

Please be careful.

ya(ku), ya(keru)
meaning: burn, roast
焼き立て == yakitate== fresh baked
燃焼 == nenshou == combustion
Left radical is 'fire' (火). Right radical is a character only found in Chinese meaning 'high'. Thus, 'high flames'. Henshall suggests taking the right radical as three tens (十), a one (一), and 'legs', and as a mnemonic:  'Roast 31 legs on fire.'


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