Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 12:06 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 12:06 | SYDNEY

Don't wait until HIV is a big problem in Indonesia


Bill Bowtell

26 March 2008 11:05

For over two decades, sensible HIV/AIDS policy-making has been hampered by the crippling intellectual orthodoxy that funding for HIV/AIDS programs should be applied only after it becomes a serious problem. This is nonsense of a superlatively high order stemming from the stranglehold that the caring and treating professions have come to exercise over public health policy-making. 

No-one begrudges the work of doctors, nurses, carers and researchers who have applied themselves unstintingly to the rolling policy and human disaster that is the AIDS pandemic. But in terms of creating a policy framework to prevent the spread of the AIDS epidemic, the caring, treating and researching professions have little to offer.

Why on earth wait for HIV/AIDS to become as large a problem in Indonesia as it is in sub-Saharan Africa? Or Papua New Guinea? No doubt when it does, every resource will be mobilised to research the problem, treat the ill, tend to the dying and, eventually, bury the dead (who might never have died had effective preventive measures been taken in the first place).  

The culpable, staggering and immensely foolish view that prevention is something that happens after the problem becomes apparent has directly contributed to the deaths of 25 million people, the infection of 40 million others, and the rapidly worsening situation among our nearest neighbours. The aim of AIDS policy-making should be to apply lavish funding immediately to implement tried, tested and effective prevention measures, in Indonesia and anywhere else smart enough to learn from the science and history of the pandemic. Not only will this save millions of lives, but it will have the entirely welcome side-benefit of (in a caring and sharing way) dispensing with the services of HIV/AIDS carers, treaters and researchers whose dedication, skills and knowledge might better be applied to other, less easily prevented diseases. 

Those policy-makers still foolish enough, against all the evidence, to do nothing but wait until AIDS becomes a problem might do us all a favour and find something else to do, possibly in denying the existence of global warming or running the American economy.