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This Week in Freudenfreude: This Is the End?

Here's some news that really ought to be getting more attention than it is. A new report from UNAIDS suggests that the end might be in sight when it comes to halting the spread of AIDS.

We don't want to be too Pollyanna-ish, so let's actually start with the caveats. First, activist groups like UNAIDS tend to be overly optimistic, because extreme hope tends to drive things forward. Second, the prediction is not that AIDS will be ended, per se, but that it will stop propagating (that is to say, there will still be tens of millions of carriers, even if the prediction comes to pass). Third, human societies have shown a propensity, when it comes to epidemic and pandemic diseases, to take things to the precipice of victory, and then to relax their defenses. See, for example, the recent resurgence in cases of measles.

Now, with the Debbie Downer stuff out of the way, we will share the year by which UNAIDS says the disease might be defeated. It's... 2030. That's staggering; it's less than 7 years away. And while the folks at UNAIDS might be optimistic, they do have data to back their general narrative. The target, when it comes to effectively halting the spread of an epidemic disease, is described as 95-95-95. That's at least 95% of the people who have HIV knowing their HIV-positive status, at least 95% of the people who know they're HIV-positive being on antiretroviral treatment, and at least 95% of people who are on treatment being virally suppressed. Those benchmarks have been reached in most of the industrialized world, and now they've been reached in 8 different African nations, while another 16 African nations are almost there. Success in Africa matters quite a bit in this fight, since the vast majority of HIV-positive humans (well over two-thirds) live on that continent.

We pass this along because the lesson is obvious. When the world's leaders put their political differences aside, and work together to solve crises, then big-time progress can result. Considering the American response, since this is a U.S.-politics-focused site, after all, Ronnie Reagan put his head in the sand when it came to the AIDS epidemic. But George H.W. Bush took it seriously, and the three presidents after Bush took it very seriously. Indeed, the efforts of the George W. Bush administration to combat AIDS in Africa, most notably the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, may be the single biggest feather in the cap of Bush the Younger.

Success like this naturally gives hope about what might be done if the world in general, and if the Republicans and Democrats in particular, can have a meeting of the minds on some of the existential crises facing the world today. Like, oh, we don't know... maybe climate change, perhaps? Just spitballing here.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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