Sep 15, 2009

A different view on swine flu: America panics over treatable disease

by Katie Bell

Lately America has been inundated with talk of the swine flu epidemic. News of the outbreak has been splashed across newspapers, nightly news broadcasts and radio waves. Hundreds have died in the U.S. from the dreaded H1N1 virus. If hundreds of deaths warrant as much media coverage as it has been given, why is the news not shouting from the rooftops about the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic in Africa?

Emaciated bodies, gaunt faces and hollow eyes are the marks of AIDS victims in Sub-Saharan Africa. Orphaned children have forfeited their childhood in order to care for younger siblings in the absence of parents. Many of these orphans are AIDS victims themselves. This is a horrific life for children, but most upsetting is that few have done anything to help them.

There have been 593 deaths in the U.S. as a result of the swine flu and 9,079 people have been hospitalized because of it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Sub-Saharan Africa, 11.6 million children have been orphaned because of AIDS, according to Which one is the real epidemic?

More people survive the swine flu than perish from it. If the virus is treated early enough it is not usually deadly. Why is there such panic? While Americans are preparing for and vigilant against the H1N1 breakout, it does not justify society’s sidelining of the AIDS issue, along with its many victims. Our nation is panicking over a problem that is in the midst of being solved and barely acknowledges a 25-year-old, seemingly hopeless situation.

Even ignoring the AIDS problem in Africa, Americans suffer from it on a significant scale as well. Since the emergence of AIDS 25 years ago through 2007, the virus has claimed 583,298 American lives, according to the CDC. Hundreds of thousands of American lives have been lost and not many people want to talk about it. AIDS is not something that exists on the other side of the world in a self-contained environment. It affects men, women and children in our own neighborhoods.

In contrast to the situation with AIDS, which is incurable, an H1N1 vaccine will be available in October. In an era when advanced medical technology is the standard, why is more not being done for one of the largest threats to human health?

“Where you live should not determine whether you live or die,” Bono, the frontman for U2, said.

Yes, H1N1 is a serious problem and we should be attentive fighting against it. But AIDS has devastated lives across the globe and has changed the history books for entire continents. All too often we have an image of AIDS as a slow, but relatively “easy” death, and we do not experience any conviction for our ignorance toward a health crisis that has changed the course of human history. AIDS victims experience slow, silent, painful deaths that are anything but easy.

Contact Katie Bell at

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