Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bad Side of Good News

Today it was announced that a major step forward in the prevention of HIV infection occurred. From MSNBC:
BANGKOK - For the first time, an experimental vaccine has prevented infection with the AIDS virus, a watershed event in the deadly epidemic and a surprising result. Recent failures led many scientists to think such a vaccine might never be possible.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. agency UNAIDS said the results “instilled new hope” in the field of HIV vaccine research, although researchers say it likely is many years before a vaccine might be available.

Today on Facebook a friend posted to my home page the question "What are your thoughts?" along with the link to the MSNBC article above. My first thought was "GREAT!" Then, as you would suspect, the rest of my mind kicked in.

Yes, overall, I'm SUPER pleased! It's a very small step. It was only effective in 30% of the cases and it is really only effective on one of the strains in Thailand. BUT that's all more than we had last year.

What made me even consider a dark cloud about this was the line in the article that says it is likely to be "many years before a vaccine might be available".

There's a vaccine for swine flu coming out this fall
and that pig hit the fan last year!

Why am I bitching about that? Because if in the early 1980's HIV had been touted as the cataclysmic, earth shaking bug that Swine Flu is now, we could be enjoying the fruits of HIV research NOW... not YEARS from now. But because it was first called "Gay Cancer" then called "Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease" or GRID the general (i.e. religious republicans...) wouldn't touch it. Many were saying it was God's punishment on the Gays.

It was several years and hundreds (if not thousands) of AIDS related deaths after the discovery before our "beloved" president, who is SUPPOSED to represent EVERY American even said the words HIV and AIDS in public. Until then nothing was being done. People were dying and no one in the establishment gave a rat's ass because who's going to miss a few fags out in San Francisco?

A group called ACTUP decided they'd had enough of seeing their friends die; dropping like flies around them. My guess is that less than 10% of the people reading this post truly know what that is like. ACTUP did just that... They acted up! In the joking words of my faux family back in South Carolina they "Showed ass at....." and fill in the blank where applicable.

I don't want to turn this into a rant the length of the Bible, but if you heard me say anything even minutely negative about the great leap forward in AIDS research that we experienced this week, I wanted you to know why. This is a GREAT DAY!!!! I'm just disappointed it couldn't have been August 8, 2001.

So back to the sunshine that today is! It is a great leap forward and we're that much closer to finding a vaccine to prevent and then hopefully one to cure.


Mahala said...

It will come.. as long as we remember to act up :)

susancy said...

Not to rain on your rant, because I love a good rant, but the AIDS virus is vastly different from Swine Flu. Massive amounts of effort and money are being thrown at it in hopes of a vaccine or even better, a cure, but it is a nasty, nasty bug. Several times researchers have found what they thought to be a vaccine, only to find out it only works on the strain they have in their lab, which has mutated so much from the original strain that it won't work on it. It's incredibly frustrating to work on a virus that mutates like that, not to mention dangerous to the lab workers.

The initial response to AIDS was shameful, and that response continued for way too long. In this country, treatments are now such that HIV infection is not necessarily a death sentence (if you have money or insurance, but that's a whole 'nother rant). There are populations in Africa that are going to vanish if we don't figure out some way to treat them, or find a cure/vaccine.

Project Christopher said...

Hi Susancy,

You're not raining on my parade. I think you're new to Project Christopher (or never commented before) so you may not realize I used to be in healthcare myself. I know Swine Flu is a TERRIBLY nasty bug and I'm VERY glad that they did squeal (no pun intended) from the get go to have a vaccine. Make no mistake, I support the heck out of ANY sort of research especially with something so horrid.

But my rant (and I love a good one too.. big surprise huh? :) ) was more about the shameful response you know to be true. It's just a shame that it took decades to mobilize on HIV, when it could have been seconds like the Swine Flu.

Thanks for visiting though! Hope you'll come back!

Max's Dad said...

I hear ya brutha. When I read Randy Shilts' book back in the day I knew what horrible things were happening. All we can do is hope. On an unrelated horror, everytime I see one of those gawdam boner pill ads I wonder how much research money that could have gone to cancer research is wasted because the stiffy pills make Big Pharma so much money.

Anonymous said...

What is the significance of Aug 8, 2001?

I've been reading your blog for a few months now.

Thanks - Sean

Just Kevin... said...

Sean, I believe that was the day it was first mentioned in the New York Times. Not by name yet, but as a trend that was being seen. A few weeks after that, I happened to be returning from a summer student exchange trip in Japan. On my way home, I was trapped in San Francisco for a few days by another Reagan caused catastrophe, the air traffic controllers strike. In those few short weeks, the Walgreens in the Castro had warning flyers up about the symptoms with graphic photographs. What little information that was known was publically available. The community had responded. But it was five and half years and 41,000 deaths later before the leader of the free world, Ronald W. Reagan, finally said the dreaded word AIDS. What did he say? That education was not the way to prevent AIDS! Morality and medicine alone would do it. Those 41,000+ deaths are on his hands.

Great rant, Chris! Kinda had one myself, huh? Good to see you last week! I think the Beachcomber had to replace that table, though! ;-)

Java said...

Are you from South Carolina? I'm currently stuck here in a backwater pretend city far from anything resembling progressive thought. I feel for ya'. But at least you got out.