AIDS incubators we can do without: HIV

Alex Wodak; 24/4/10

Alex Wodak is a physician, director of the alcohol and drug service at Sydney’s St Vincents Hospital and president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.

Twenty-nine years after the announcement of a new pandemic, the world still struggles to come to terms with HIV. Sometimes logic, rationality and compassion have prevailed in our responses, but all too often emotion has triumphed over evidence. Earlier this month in Sydney the National Centre for HIV Social Research held its biennial conference to review responses to this infection. Former High Court judge Michael Kirby spoke about a recent meeting he attended in The Netherlands where leaders of the world’s religions discussed this challenging epidemic. Kirby described how most participants were moved by compassion for vulnerable minorities, but a few steadfastly refused to approve any declaration that acknowledged the minority groups at highest risk in the West. One of the speakers at the Sydney conference wept while describing her two decades of hard work spent trying to achieve more humane responses to drug users. Kirby, noting her tears, rejoiced that there were some among us who still felt great passion about this epidemic at a time of growing HIV fatigue and the increasing dominance of newer concerns and threats.The number of people in the world newly infected with HIV has started declining. But an estimated 2.7 million people are expected to get infected this year.