Cover Image

Not for Sale

View/Hide Left Panel

5 million babies dead from AIDS, 10 million children orphaned, and 15 million dead adults. “What we have is a pandemic. It will be followed by a second pandemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis. We’ve not seen anything like this since the Black Death of the fourteenth century.”

“So if there will be 20 million dead and 50 people infected with the virus for every one with symptoms of the disease, that makes something like 10 billion infected people by the turn of the century,” I quickly calculated in my head. These numbers were greater than I could comprehend.

“How many AIDS patients do you think one doctor can care for?” I asked her. “It’s exhausting work.”

“Five or 600 at best,” she replied thoughtfully.

“So we need a city of doctors worldwide full-time to care for all these patients. There is no way the medical profession can make that kind of response.”

The image of poor people in Africa, Asia, and, of course, Haiti dying with no medical care overwhelmed me. To me it was clear. AIDS had become a disease of the poor. I wondered if Margaret appreciated the paradox of what we talked about and what she was saying in her lecture. In her lecture she talked about more things we could do for people with AIDS. Newer drugs, better drugs, more expensive drugs, more tests, more physician time, but still no hope for cure. We were going to end up with two kinds of AIDS—for the minority with money, a chronic illness measured over years, with treatments and blood counts, and alternative treatments, protocols, and hope. For the poor majority, insidious weakness, a few hopeless months of wasting, or several hours of suffocation. Even if we gave the medicines out for free, there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, and laboratories or, for that matter, enough understanding among people “at risk” to deal with these numbers. George Orwell was right: We all have to die, but it’s better to die rich. The poor always suffer more in the process.

My suspicion that AIDS was somehow differentially preying on

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