3 weeks on from World AIDS Day, “A Condom Is [Still] A Girl’s Best Friend”

young-woman-holding-condoms condomlove
“A condom is a girl’s best friend”.

And a man’s, agreed? This is the [translated] title of the French ad that has appeared on billboards in Paris since the summer 2009. It is part of the yearly renewed Aids campaign, a continual effort to raise awareness and to promote ‘safe sex’. While it seems the need to entertain extends to all matters, so that even awareness about Aids must be inviting and playful, the statistics are a sober reminder that HIV is all but that.

So as World AIDS Day came and went, and the count to Christmas, New Year, St Valentine, birthdays rolls on, let us take a look at another kind of count and numbers from home:

UNAIDS statistics as published state that “In the UK people living with HIV has trebled in ten years”. 85,000 people live with HIV in the UK. 7,298 new diagnoses were made in 2008. It is projected that a quarter of people with HIV remains undiagnosed.

Now, picture the globe and zoom out:

33.4 million people are living with HIV worldwide, amongst them 2.1 million are under 15. 2.7 million new cases were recorded for 2007, with 2 million HIV related deaths in 2007 also. Again, UNAIDS stats. Bear in mind that these are diagnosed cases – a question mark remains on the precise total. Dizzy yet?

As to the accuracy of the numbers for diagnosed cases countries individually report – these reports forming the base of official statistics – the example of my country of origin springs to mind; Algeria. Cultural taboos have a bad habit of hindering the best of counts, not to mention the somewhat dubious counting ability of certain heads of states, such as those who get voted in with say, something short of 100%. If elections aren’t rigged then maybe it is the ability to count according to basic mathematical laws that chronically goes wrong. So, one reserves judgement.

Well, numbers… I cannot begin to apprehend the vastness these numbers entail, nor visualise their extent fully. What I can grasp though is the clear factor contained in the words: ‘and increasing’.


Let’s zoom back home.

Dr Wim Van Damme of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Belgium, in a short exert on avert.org, reflects that a crucial challenge due to the nature and scale of Aids awaits, the likes of which the history of medical treatment has not encountered before: once a patient begins a treatment, it is for life. If it means 33.4 million pharmaceutical treatments and individual follow ups, it is not just once, it is for life. Hence “Universal Treatment and Human Rights”, the theme of World Aids day this year.

It is no surprise to find that funding for such a humanitarian enterprise is more than neglected. Needless to spell what this engenders in countries that cannot afford the required medical equipment, facilities and care units.

Back to numbers.

There is a film that is going round the Festival halls but that is not yet available publicly.  It may or may not make it on our screens.  House of Numbers by Canadian film maker Brent Leung is highly controversial and is raking up a formidable amount of ire.  This film, made in the form of a documentary, discusses and challenges the current perspective on AIDS and HIV.  Nobel prize winner French scientist Dr Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, is one of the many scientists interviewed in this film.  In a face to face that is already making the pro-drugs lobby tremble, Dr Montagnier explains to Leung that AIDS could not only be defeated with nutrition, but that the current approach to fighting AIDS blatantly misinforms.

Agree with it or not, I want to have the choice to make my ‘fragile and pliable’ mind up. Questioning – the freedom to open debate and access to information – is not only vital to any field; where life [and saving lives] is concerned, ‘thinking’ is more than mandatory. So let us think.

–Nadia Ghanem

Related links: www.worldaidsday.org | www.unaids.orgwww.avert.org

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