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AIDS in Canada

I certainly don’t want to trivialize the suffering of anybody who’s been affected by HIV and AIDS, but sometimes I get frustrated by the scope of the media coverage that this disease receives. It is, of course, absolutely ravaging Africa, but I think its impact in Canada gets overblown.

To confirm my suspiscions, I did some research. In Canada, there are 50,000 HIV-positive people (85% of whom are men), and about 18,000 of them have AIDS (92% of whom are men). In the entire epidemic, since 1979, slightly more than 19,000 people have died. In truth, some other deaths (particularly those early on) were probably misdiagnosed, but we could safely say less than 30,000 people have died from AIDS.

I was also pleased to learn that the rate of AIDS-related mortality death (due, presumably, to research and education) has dropped dramatically every year since 1996. In 1995, there were 1481 deaths. There were 61 recorded deaths from AIDS last year. That’s great news. The rate of new cases has decreased significantly as well.

I know we recently had World AIDS Day, but I think this disease gets more Canadian press than, numbers wise, it deserves. For example, cancer will kill about 67,400 people in this year alone. Heart disease will take about 80,000. Yet, AIDS and HIV still get plenty of play in the media. More importantly, do you ever hear those declining HIV/AIDS numbers–the good news–in the media? No, because that’s not a compelling enough story.

I got all of these stats from a very thorough report from the Canadian government: HIV and AIDS in Canada.

7 Responses to “AIDS in Canada”

  1. donna

    there’s a few reasons that AIDS and such get so much airtime:

    1. it’s “preventable”. Moreso than cancer & heart disease, anyway. You can pinpoint where you got aids, it’s hard to say “Yeah, I contracted cancer from cigarette #2948.”

    2. It’s still known as a gay mans disease. Anything that makes homosexuality look bad will be jumped on by some fundamentalists. The hard part is getting it across to people that it’s not someones sexuality that makes them more likely to get AIDS — it’s their lifestyle. A straight chick who sleeps with a lot of anonymous people is much more likely to get HIV than a gay guy in a monogamous relationship. People really need to get that into their heads.

    3. That said, a lot of gay people do have HIV, and queer people are pretty good at making a brouhaha for their own movements. :) It’s not quite the same as gay cancer, y’know?

    Those are my thoughts, anyway.

  2. Sue

    I agree with you that it would be nice to see such media coverage and bleeding-heart fundraising for cancer and heart disease.

    Isn’t it odd how the diseases that have something to do with sex or genitalia (HIV & AIDS, breast cancer, prostrate cancer) seem to have come out on top of the race for media attention recently? Or is that just my perception of it?

  3. Todd

    AIDS is a highly politicized disease, with a troubledh history. For one, as Donna points out, it is often perceived as a gay man’s disease, which invokes all sorts of strong reactions. And I think that the initial reaction of governments and health bodies, which was no reaction, was shameful enough that a lot of people are trying to make up for that still.

    That said, as a disease AIDS is particularly dangerous to the species. It intersects with reporduction and destroys our ability to ward off disease. It mutates 60 times faster than the common cold, and you can see how effective we’ve been at curing that. Were it to mutate into an airborne virus, we would be looking at losing a very large portion of the population before a cure, vaccine or natural resistance could develop.

    I agree that there isn’t enough good news about AIDS, and that there is indeed good news to be had. But in this case the media is needed for a little social engineering. Infection rates are going up dramatically, which means that the severity of the problem and the risk factors are not being understood. Additionally, patients are showing increased resistance to the cocktail combinations that have been successful in extending life. That means that the decline in deaths is momentary, and the gains, by the numbers, largely illusory.

    As for Sue’s comment, how does SARS fit into this attribution of the sex and gentialia-driven media coverage theory? Strong reactions are needed in the media sometimes as a call to action. Otherwise the message just fades into the background with so much other bad news that we can’t do something about. Here is something we can, so as far as I’m concerned the coverage is justified.

  4. Mel

    Sorry Donna, but I have to say that in most cases, heart disease is just as preventable as HIV/AIDS.

  5. Todd

    I would disagree Mel. There are genetic predisposition factors to heart disease where there don’t seem to be any with AIDS. You can certainly lessen your risk level with heart disease but family history plays a strong part.

  6. Mo

    I would truly like to say i disagree with Todd. Im sorry to say the reason being is because aids is a major issue and is a World Issue which is more prevelant in the Sub-Sahar Africa. There is a lot of poverty there and due to poverty there is no education which people can get. If there was education there would be a less chance of them gettin Aids. We needa help the children in africa who are dying once every 6 seconds. Mel I totally agree with u my sister, with another mister

  7. katrina deroos

    I think Todd is right because AIDS is mostly come from the guy you are dating and having sex with then you have HIV if he has the AIDS and you get affected by it. The question is why are people being affected by HIV?

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