The four H's
People used to call it the 4-H disease because the people who acquired it were heroine addicts, homosexuals, those who needed homo-derivatives for blood transfusions and, the worst, Haitians.
It was two decades ago when symptoms that didn’t fit the usual diagnoses appeared on people. Since those symptoms repeatedly appeared in H-groups, it was commonly said that a syndrome affected specific risk groups. Therefore, a type of exclusion against those people started taking place. Obsession got to the point of people talking about a divine punishment for sinful conducts. These words came out of priests who were standing on their pulpits.
In Cuba, the sick were imprisoned in special hospitals where they lived cloistered and, in the beginning, not even their family or their friends could visit them. A socialist country could not recognize that it had sick people because of “vices that are characteristic of capitalist countries.”
In Florida, accusation and exclusion campaigns that reminded the worst era of McCarthy were unchained.
It was a long battle to make the media stop talking about group risks and to start talking about risk practices.
Homosexual activities without the right protection, sharing contaminated needles to use drugs or to transfer blood from donors who have the virus helped to shape the profiles of the disease and to fight better against the unchained paranoia. What people didn’t know back then is that within the first people with AIDS were the babies of immigrant Haitian mothers. This confused researchers because babies did not fit the risk groups.
Later on, it was known that American homosexuals with HIV engaged in sexual tourism in the island. However, the taboo on this field confused investigators because Haitians would not admit that those practices could take place within their population. But they took place in exchange for money, and these men contaminated their women, many of which emigrated to the United States, pregnant with infected children.
Happily, that H has been rooted out recently and the cases of contaminated blood transfusion have stopped because control over that has become stricter. And within the homosexual population of the most developed countries, intense campaigns took place. These campaigns were able to stop the growing expansion of the disease because people could adopt control methods in their practices and they let experts in medicine guide them. Even needle sharing among heroine addicts was reduced while the syndrome, already pandemic, has sky-rocketed in a brutal way among heterosexuals and women, who are the segment f the population that is the most unprotected and punished.
AIDS affects now affects 40 million people. The UN report that was published alerts that “if things continue the same way, we are destined to a disaster.”
The percentages of new cases of HIV have grown in the first years of the 21st Century. Of all the infected people in the world, 2.2 millions are under 15 years old. More than 3 million people have died each year because of the disease.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of the people with HIV live, a smaller number than the 90 percent that was registered 13 years ago. Unfortunately, this statistic does not reflect the reduction of cases in this area but rather the dramatic increase in other areas of the world.
The continuous alarms from official organizations such as UNAIDS have not been able to control the expansion of the disease.
Seventy percent of the pregnant women receive treatment now and most of the Latin American population has access to medical treatment to treat the disease. But out of 4 million people who need treatment in the world, only about 500,000 receive it, and most of these people live in developed countries.
UNAIDS warns us: “If this low level of coverage remains, between five and six million people will day because of AIDS within the next couple of years.” While investigators discover an effective vaccine and facing the lack of access to medicine, we can only insist on prevention and in increasing sensitization and education campaigns in schools and in the media.
In the presentation of the Report, the epidemiologist Dr. Luíz Lures, adjunct director of UNAIDS, said, “the use of Condom is fundamental, and no concessions can be made.” And given the position of the Catholic Church or of the US government, who give more importance to abstinence or to faithfulness, the expert added, “I’m not an expert in morals; I’m a specialist on public health. We don’t expect the Catholic Church promotes the use of condom; we simply expect that the Church does not speak against it because doing so is talking against scientific evidence.”
Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez
This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 04/04/2005