There’s an old saying about health care that follows along the lines of something like an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. That’s probably not it exactly but you get the general idea; preventing an illness is a heck of a lot more effective a means of health care than curing it. It only make sense, once somebody gets sick there’s no telling what could develop and how serious it could get, so it’s best if they never get sick in the first place.
It seems to me that it would make even more sense when it’s a disease as fatal as HIV/AIDS. There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are many ways which to prevent the spread of the disease, even among those at the highest risk. Condoms for people who have sex with multiple partners and clean needles for people who inject intravenous drugs isn’t a hundred percent guarantee that HIV/AIDS won’t be passed from one person to another, but it’s a heck of a lot safer than any of the alternatives out there.
What about abstinence you ask? Well sure, if everybody, everywhere in the world, stopped having sex before they were married and only ever screwed one person in their whole life, it would go a long way to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, I don’t know what world you’re living, but for the one I live in that’s not what I’d call a realistic proposition for even the heterosexual population. In fact according to statistics reported in Elizabeth Pisani’s wonderful book on HIV/AIDS The Wisdom Of Whores in North America alone 70% of people who sign abstinence oaths end up having pre-marital sex. As an interesting aside the majority of those people also have unprotected sex, as nobody seems to have bothered educating them about condoms.
So with evidence like that you’d think that it would be a no-brainer for there to be a concentrated effort the world over to ensure that we focus on getting condoms to people in the sex trade or in other high risk groups, and ensure that intravenous drug users are given every opportunity possible to get clean needles. Unfortunately there are people who think that people dying of a horrible disease is less important than forcing everybody live by their moral code. So the Catholic Church, conservative Christians, and fundamentalist Muslims the world over have formed an unholy alliance to ensure that people don’t commit the horrible sin of practising something that could be construed as birth control or that we even give the appearance of condoning drug use..
According to these good folk the only reason to have sex is for procreation, and if you’re having sex for procreation than you don’t need to use a condom. Which is all very well and good, but when was the last time you knew of a prostitute having sex for reason of procreation? Or how about gay men; do you think they have procreation in mind when they have sex? Of course homosexuality is probably an even bigger no-no than birth control in the eyes of the previously mentioned trinity, so you can’t expect too much in the way of compassion from them on that front.
In fact, for supposedly compassionate religious people, and both Christianity and Islam have great swathes about being compassionate in their holy books, these folk seem pretty vindictive. It’s amazing how many of them seem to be of the opinion that intravenous drug users and other deviants are only getting what they deserve. What’s unfortunate is how many people think like this and control the purse strings when it comes to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Everybody knows by now how not a single penny of the money that George Bush has allocated for HIV/AIDS is allowed to be given to any group that hands out or recommends condoms as a means of fighting the spread of the disease. Now it seems like his fellow traveller, Prime Minister of Canada Steven Harper, is going down the same path. His government is planning on cutting HIV/AIDS funding to community organizations that do front line prevention work to the tune of 26 million dollars and redirecting it towards the development of a vaccine.
This comes on top of the cuts which last year saw Quebec’s funding reduced by 30%, Ontario’s by 24%, and Alberta only being funded for six months. What worries people most is that the cuts are going to be to the programmes which focus on prevention to those people considered to be most at risk; intravenous drug users, prisoners and gay men. While nobody is arguing that funding research to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS is a bad thing, taking money away from programming aimed at preventing the immediate spread of the disease to do so is dangerous and irresponsible.
So why is Steven Harper’s government doing this? Well in the last election he ran on a platform that included a promise to try and repeal Canada’s same sex marriage law, and once elected cancelled the previous government’s plans at decriminalizing marijuana. If that doesn’t give you some idea of this government’s mindset, how about this quote from our honourable Prime Minister when it came to the question of harm reduction among addicts: “If you remain an addict, I don’t care how much harm you reduce, you’re going to have a short and miserable life.”
This is the same government that is doing it’s best to manipulate figures to show that a trial safe injection site in Vancouver British Columbia has led to more people using intravenous drugs and has caused more harm than good. The actual truth of the matter is that every time a person shoots up on their own in a controlled environment they will not be sharing a needle and not risking the spread of disease to anyone else. There is also statistical evidence that intravenous drug users who come to safe injection sites or needle exchanges are far more likely to enter into treatment programmes than people who don’t, as they are in constant contact with people who will help and encourage them to rehabilitate.
Logic, reason, and statistical evidence all point towards spending money on programmes geared towards preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS is currently the most efficient and effective means we have of controlling the disease. All the statistical evidence points to the fact that needle exchanges, safe injection sites, and the use of condoms are the most effective preventative measures going, therefore it only makes sense that those are means we should be using to prevent the spread of the disease.
Unfortunately it seems that logic, reason, and statistical evidence mean nothing to people like the Prime Minister of Canada and his fellow travellers. It’s obviously much more important for them to impose their morality on the rest of us, no matter how many people they kill in the process.
References to statistical evidence in this article are supported by the work of epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani’s work as sited in her book The Wisdom Of Whores. You can find a listing of all her references at the reference page of her Wisdom Of Whores web site.