There is apparently much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the world of AIDS research on the news that not only do the hugely expensive vaccines in development not reduce the risk of getting AIDS, they actually increase it, maybe by a factor of two. One US funded study was abandoned after it was realized that the vaccine did no good and was probably harmful. The study was being done on homosexual volunteers in the Americas, the Caribbean and Australia; I have to assume that the only way you can tell the success of the vaccine is by testing these people over a period of time to see how many of them become HIV positive. This begs an interesting question: assuming these volunteers knew about AIDS and the risk of unprotected anal sex with strangers (which would have to be the case under any definition of “informed consent”), and given that they clearly decided to assume the risk anyway, why the fuck is the US spending more than $250 million a year trying to figure out how to save their lives? There are many innocent victims of this disease but promiscuous homosexuals fucking each other in the arse even after all the publicity around the risk do not count among them. Neither do needle-sharing drug abusers, although at least in their case they have the excuse that they’re too fucked up on smack to care.
This raises a bigger issue, and one which you will never hear anyone discuss: who should be saved?
The population of the world is growing exponentially. The 6 billion people infesting the globe today will be 10 billion by the year 2150, and the population growth will not be even. The huge population increase in India and China is well documented, but it is Africa which is projected to see the biggest percentage increase. The population of Africa will swell from some 13% of the total today to around one quarter of the whole world’s population over this period. What the fuck is it going to cost to keep all these people alive? Clearly the twats in charge in Africa today can’t fucking well do it.
It’s tempting to approach the issue of healthcare as though everyone can be saved and should be saved, but think about this rationally. When you save someone’s life you don’t make them immortal – you just postpone their death. If you find a cure for cancer they’ll end up dying of something else eventually. This is why the “settlements” imposed on the cigarette companies to compensate the States for the health costs of treating smokers were such bullshit. Statistics show that providing healthcare to smokers costs less than to non-smokers over their lifetimes – in terms of simple cost, cigarettes saved the States billions.
So what happens if we are successful in finding a cure for cancer? And AIDS? What if we can delay the aging process (which seems to be the goal of half the world’s healthcare research), reduce heart disease or treat obesity? Where are all these people going to live? Sooner or later we’re all going to die wallowing in our own filth, unless a friendly epidemic thins the herd a bit. And what do you get if you knock off all the causes of “premature” death? You get billions of fucking old people, that’s what, and how many greeters can WalMart employ in the year 2150?
Of course anyone who suggests that we should take our finite healthcare spending and prioritize it in providing the maximum quality (not quantity) of life will be shouted down. Anyone who implies that maybe death is nature’s way of keeping the population young and that we should be more concerned about the staggering population growth in Africa than the tiny decline caused by AIDS, is not going to get invited to any UN conferences.
In the end you can’t save everyone. The latest cutting-edge medical procedures are so hideously complex and expensive that healthcare insurance has become unaffordable for millions. Many of them then die from eminently treatable conditions. How stupid is that? We’re working harder so that less people can be protected, not more. The whole pharmaceutical industry is working feverishly to produce a drug that will treat obesity, a condition of choice among lazy overeaters, while millions die untreated from malaria. And the AIDS industry grinds on, consuming ever more dollars that could be used to save and improve lives in well known and simple ways in developing countries, simply because it’s politically impossible to say no to it. Perhaps instead of giving them experimental vaccines someone should just have handed the volunteers a small card, reading “Don’t fuck strangers in the arse or you might die”. That would have got my vote.
Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison