Cover Image

Not for Sale

View/Hide Left Panel

have started here, in Lagos, or perhaps in Bangkok. It didn’t matter where it started. Poverty was the issue, not sex, and we could do something about that.

The Petri dish theory did have an ominous corollary. The more the virus replicated, the more opportunities it had to evolve new strategies to kill people. If, at the present time, one couldn’t get AIDS from splashing in or drinking contaminated water, there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen in the future. In their quest for survival, germs have proven remarkably ingenious. For example, the germ that caused the Black Death evolved two ways to infect humans: one through the bites of rat fleas and the other from person to person through the air we breathe. The rats and their fleas, coupled with the masses of people that crowded European ports in the 14th century and the crowded living conditions they endured, set up a double-barreled killing machine that wiped out half of Europe.

But the real Petri dishes were the tens of thousands of people living here and in places like here—walking culture media—who don’t know they’re infected and couldn’t do anything about it anyway. So, whatever its origin, a virus has evolved that’s smarter than we are, smarter because it attacks our three greatest weaknesses—our immunological defenses, our sex drive, and our social order. And as Tim had predicted, it always stays two steps ahead of us. Back in the States we’re still debating about confidentiality, voluntary testing, and condoms. How can you expect safe sex to be practiced in Cité Soleil or, for that matter, any place that’s desperately poor, or by the mentally ill, or by crack addicts on the streets of Miami? The real risk factor is not being gay or Haitian or a drug user. It’s being a social outcast. AIDS is like a zombie curse, a judgment cast on a victim. People with AIDS are victims of a disease, and we blame them for it. Then they exist, half-alive, half-dead, enslaved by their diagnosis. And we, as a society, are not going to do anything about it because we must want it this way. Otherwise, we would change things. And why do we want it this way? At best it’s because we’re all wrapped up in our own lives, and who has time to care about places out of sight,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement