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News of the Day ... In Perspective

12/10/2007

AIDS statistics revised downward

Recently, the United Nations AIDS agency slashed its estimates of persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from nearly 40 million to 33 million worldwide. Figures for India were halved, from 5.7 million to 2.5 million infected. The agency warned, however, that AIDS could spike if countries dropped their guard (Reuters, New York Times 11/20/07).

British cancer specialist Karol Sikora, former head of the World Health Organization’s Cancer Program, cites the overblown statistics as an example of how political correctness influences too much medical spending and can lead to a gross misallocation of resources.

“Between the early Eighties and 1993, the Government spent £900 million on advertising, educating about and treating Aids…. At one stage in the early Nineties, we had the absurdity that the number of people in Aids counselling, helplines and other jobs exceeded the number of sufferers. Moreover, for every three Aids victims, there was one Aids organisation” (Daily Mail 11/21/07).

For all the emphasis on HIV, Sikora writes, the biggest killer in the world is dehydration, which is responsible for 12 million deaths a year, mostly in Africa. Simple, cheap improvements in water supplies would greatly diminish that number.

In the U.S., fatalities from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) could exceed those from AIDS, at an estimated 18,650 annually compared to 17,011, respectively (Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press 10/16/07).

According to the summary of reportable diseases for Pima County (Ariz.) for October 2007, there were 5 cases of HIV, 16 of MRSA, 44 of gonorrhea, and 269 of Chlamydia.

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