30/04/08

Global warming causes HIV

The Wisdom of Whores isn’t published until next week, but one of the more absurd predictions in the book has come to pass.
Here’s the passage from the book.

Chatting with my friend Bert who works for the World Bank, I marvelled that almost every UN agency was on the AIDS bandwagon. Bert gave me a “Well duh!” look. “The UN institutions are professional beggars, and beggars go where the money is,” he said. “So you get “culture and AIDS”, “kids and AIDS”, “fish and AIDS”. I’m just waiting for “climate change and AIDS”.

Here’s the headline from The Australian:

Global warming set to fan HIV

The claim comes from Daniel Tarantola who, along with the posthumously sainted Jonathan Mann, turned HIV into a human rights issue, a development issue, a disease contracted by people who are poor and ill-educated, rather than a disease contracted by people who share needles or have unprotected sex with lots of partners.

“It was clear soon after the emergence of the HIV epidemic that discrimination, gender inequality and lack of access to essential services have made some populations more vulnerable than others,” said Prof Tarantola, of the University of NSW. “Climate change will trigger a chain of events which is likely to increase the stress on society and result in higher vulnerability to diseases including HIV.”

Australian scientist David Cooper, who’s normally rather sensible, played the “you, too, are at risk” card. “This would effect Australia too, because these infections could potentially spread. Just look at the horror that SARS and avian flu have caused.”

I’m hoping Cooper was misquoted. His comments rightly got the bloggosphere jeering. JammieWearingFool and Jimme at the Sundries Shack both made a more sensible diagnosis than the good doctors. This sort of hype keeps the cash rolling in. And of course people who work in HIV, number one on the donor fashion hit parade for so long, are worried that global warming is taking over as flavour-of-the-decade. What better way to protect your dosh than to conflate the two?

Of course other people can conflate the two as well; step forth the double denialists. To be honest, I can’t blame them. Even if there is a relationship between climate change, food security, nutrition and HIV, the “increased vulnerability” hype is beyond facile, it’s damaging. HIV is a big problem. We do need lots of money to deal with it. But we need to be dealing with it by spending that money on the people most likely to be exposed to the virus (as Australia currently does), not on making people who will never be at risk feel like the sky is falling.

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This post was published on 30/04/08 in Ideology and HIV.

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