This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

The End of AIDS?

This week is the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS cases being recognized as a cluster of diseases in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control, although the disease probably entered the country in the 1970s. Thirty years ago no one was sure exactly what this disease was. I have a copy of the Wall Street Journal from December 10, 1981 with the headline "Mysterious Ailment Plagues Drug Users, Homosexual Males." Only six years later it was a global emergency, and merited a separate essay in the Fourth Edition of my Population text, which came out in 1988. I ended that essay with the comment that "it also seems possible, however, that the massive resources that are being poured into research may yield a cure for AIDS." I thought about that comment as I pondered the Economist's cover story this week--23 years later--on "The End of Aids?" That question mark at the end is the most important part of the headline. The Associated Press offered this thought about it:
"There are paths forward now" to a day when people with AIDS might be cured, said Dr. Michael Horberg, a member of President Obama's HIV/AIDS council and vice chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, doctors who treat the disease. "But it's not tomorrow, and it's not today."
Prevention is still the key to limiting the disease, and the picture is now complicated by an increasing North/South divide in survival. Research has not yet found a cure, but it has produced medicines that will hold back the effects of the disease and increase survival even when infected. Those drugs are expensive, however, and have to be taken for the rest of your life. In the rich countries this is possible, but in the poor countries not so much. 

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