There was recently an event called World AIDS Day, which generated a lot of hand wringing and clichéd calls for “awareness” in the media. News items I saw particularly seemed to focus on demands for more money spent on research and treatment.
But AIDS already garners far more funding than it proportionally deserves. Political fashion makes it cool to support AIDS issues, but political fashion really shouldn’t be the source of decisions about medical resources.
Shouldn’t we find those maladies that do the most harm to the greatest number of the most innocent sufferers and help them first and foremost? Certainly, AIDS is awful and should be cured, but the fact is that the vast majority of cases of AIDS are the result of conscious, avoidable choices made by adults, and that excellent treatment options are available. (Remember in the early 90s when we all thought Magic Johnson would be dead soon? He’s still alive and well.) Yes, the growing epidemics in Africa are sad and charity should reach out to them, but that’s not the same as our situation in the US, where AIDS has simply never reached the catastrophic rates we expected it would in the 80s.
Rather, by my formula above–“those maladies that do the most harm to the greatest number of the most innocent sufferers”–it seems obvious that there should be a wide societal agreement that our time and money should be spent curing childhood cancer. We should focus on that and snowball our resources. Of course people should be free to support what they want, or nothing at all, but I can’t imagine anyone making a good argument that any other condition does more serious harm, with less effective current treatments, to more innocent victims than the varieties of childhood cancer that do ravage too many young people in America. Naturally, helping childhood cancer sufferers would also help the many, many adults who suffer, also.
A dollar spent on AIDS due to political fashion is a dollar that cannot be spent on cancer research. That’s heart breaking.