Friday, August 23, 2013


Tim Barrus: “Why there will be no such thing as an AIDS-free generation: there is no will, and there is no way.”

It is now possible, if you have a LOT of money plus the right connections and genome, to cure AIDS in some individuals under some circumstances.  A formidable amount is known about the HIV virus and how it works.  (It is code that can insert itself in the chromosomes of humans.  It gets there through the blood stream.)  Why won’t this ever progress to a universal cure like vaccination?  I had started a list but Tim published another one which was much better than mine, so I’ll mash them together.  (As a compliment, not a criticism.)  In places it’s a little incoherent because it is a growing list.  And a little twisted, but that’s just me.  I’ve added and subtracted plus commenting.

Poverty. (It’s always comparative but poverty that is barely survival is what I mean. Below that, the problem solves itself with death.  Some might count on that.)

Addiction. (Not just substances but also behaviors.)

Hopelessness.  (Paralysis.  Hanging on the hook.  Courting death.) 

Fear.  (Of little things and big things.  Defined or ambiguous.  Worst is general all-consuming miasma called depression.  No, worse is a government that gets its way by scaring people.)

Cyclical reincarceration. (Not just criminals, but the unstable, deranged, and traumatized.   The children and the foreign.  Always the treatment, never the cure.)

Snuff policies.  Passive-aggressive murder. (No access to condoms in prison,  criminalization of condoms anywhere, no access to HIV-AIDS meds in prison, no needle exchanges or methadone clinics, no legal abortion.)

Concomitant disease such as mental illness. (Brain injuries from trauma or parasites. Prison-generated psychosis via solitary confinement or political confinement, lack of protection, fear of losing freedom.)

The belief that the government conspired to create the HIV virus.  (And the observation that governments manipulate access to meds for political reasons.)

Criminal associations. (Scapegoating mysterious “bad people”, criminalization of sex work, CEO cartels of financial institutions.)

Violence.  (No listening.  No options. No dignity or safety.  Extreme weaponry.)

Gender disparity. (Against women, against gays, against ambiguity or difference -- insistence on dyadic categories rather than a spectrum of gender variation.)

Loss of legal rights. (Including the vote.  Displacement of law to regulations, no access to court.  Privileging only traditional marriage.)

Stigma within marginal communities.  (Indians who hate Indians, gays who hate gays, the constant formation of “holier than thou” sub-groups.)

Peer pressure.  (Someone always doesn’t want you to reform, succeed in school, or in any other way look as though you might leave or criticize the group.)

Homelessness. (Basic shelter for the cyclically or permanently marginalized, which can suddenly include formerly wealthy persons.  Something better than a gymnasium with cots, or a hive of blue tarps.)

Increased vulnerability due to exposure to violence. (Mind-twisting the children, intimidating neighborhoods, causing wounds and broken bones.)

Employment discrimination.  (No certified skill sets, no appealing appearance and no connections.  Being the wrong color or size or manner.  "Handicaps." Tats. Studs.)

The disempowerment of female roles. (Moms and dads -- gender labeling is part of what undercuts basic care for each other.  The dis-valuing of all nurturing, cleaning, supporting roles.  Painful and humiliating duties are delegated to females --inserting catheters, debrading wounds, handling bedpans.  In the absence of women, men of color do it.)

Cultural male norms regarding marriage.  (Esp. if men only marry men.  Jokes.  The item means that husbands are supposed to be able to beat their wives and otherwise make property of them.) 

Religious opposition to protection or any innovation or change, because change loosens the power of the religious position which rests on divine inerrant revelation.  (If God had worn a condom or Mary had been on the pill, Jesus would never have arrived.  Same if God were celibate, as priests are obviously not.  Some might think Jesus was a waste of effort anyway.  No joke.)

Closeted male behavior. (Oh, yeah. Women do sneaky stuff, too.)

War and subsequent diaspora.  (Culture-smashing.  Family scattering.)

Opposition to immigration reform.  (The line in the sand strategy.  Trying to wall off reality.)

Sexual victimization of refugees. (Trapping, kidnapping, bartering.)

Human trafficking.  (Serving up the poor to the rich.  Eating Irish babies a la Swift.)

Official corruption. (As opposed to unofficial corruption?  As distinguished from survival skimming and embezzlement as on reservations?  Or common bribery as campaign contributions.  Or shell organizations that sound good but do nothing.)

Belief in one magic solution to any disease or behavior, preferably chemical and marketable: blister packs of pills, lots of them.  With side effects.

Overpopulation pressure  (Invasion of unsettled lands and/or waters -- this is the origin of HIV -- monkeys had had it for a millennium.  Constant breaking and thinning of ecological threads.  Domestication of livestock 10,000 years ago was the source of many of the major scourges of humanity -- like smallpox.  If we are not willing to see people die by the zillions in epidemics and famines, we must confine our numbers to what the land will sustain.)

Environmental pressure: bad air, bad water, bad temps, exhausted soil, collapsing infrastructure.

Never looking at the whole but always plucking this strand or that strand, this trendy issue or that cause d’jour.  

Obsession with all the wrong things:  sex and money instead of justice and nonsexual pleasure.

Domination by print: confined by details (jots and tittles) of books, laws, contracts instead of making them serve the meaning and principles.

Tim again:  All of this has been the shadow of humanity since the day the species started forming tribal associations that addressed common problems that transcended individuals but were shared by tribes and families. . . . The species will decide at which level the living with the virus is acceptable. The status quo will remain the way it is. The larger questions will not be addressed. To do so would be to restructure human politics, cultural beliefs, religious inquisition, repressive sexual norms, systems of justice, and the kind of economic trade that transcends geographic boundaries equivalent to HIV's ability to replicate itself despite the mundane efforts represented by all of the above combined. The virus will continue to exist and thrive within subcultures.  . . . You are the shadows that you make. These issues are not going to disappear any more readily than the light.  

This is all true.  If it weren't, polio wouldn't have returned, we wouldn't have pockets of measles and whooping cough.   TB would be eliminated.  It is witness testimony, speaking truth to power.  I’m subversive, but I’m not alone., TED talks. Bioneers.  So far they have not let their commitment to their organizations strangle their search for new ideas.  When they do, I’ll dump them.  I never forget that in the end, only the planet wins and that’s because it doesn’t care one way or the other.  But I care in the particular and specific ways that humans do.

1.  You should do what you CAN do.  I can write a story.  I cannot write a symphony or climb a mountain.  I am not a scientist, but I can read and understand a lot of it.

2.  Do what you MUST do.  I am compelled to write.  I don’t have to clean house if I don’t want to (up to a point), but I MUST feed the cats.  I must sometimes intervene in matters.

3.  Do what you know.  And make it your business to know a lot about a lot of things and to know how to find out stuff when you need to know it.

4.  Do who you are.  I don’t mean stick to your own demographic, I mean don’t do what you aren’t.  I’m not a ten-year-old glue-sniffing abused homeless kid, so I can’t presume to really understand him.  But I can understand my own reaction to him and if I don’t like how I feel about him, I can change my own reaction.  I don’t like judging him and he doesn’t like it either.

5.  Do what you never dared to do.  How do I know what it is?  But some of my best moments have been joining people I know nothing about.  I don’t mean signing their membership book.  I mean just standing alongside and listening, trying to get the jokes.

6.  Do or be done unto.  That’s what Kim Williams used to say on NPR.  I observe it to be true.

1 comment:

Rebecca Clayton said...

I see that the annual death toll from cholera is still around 100,000--120,000, and cholera is curable with a short course of off-patent antibiotics. With adequate rehydration, it is survivable even without medicine. (I once worked in a micro lab that studied the cholera microorganism and its relatives, so that's my point of reference.) The list of reasons people still die from cholera certainly overlaps your list.