The Catastrophe Ahead: AIDS and the Case for a New Public Policy

The Catastrophe Ahead: AIDS and the Case for a New Public Policy

The Catastrophe Ahead: AIDS and the Case for a New Public Policy

The Catastrophe Ahead: AIDS and the Case for a New Public Policy

Synopsis

The result of an intensive two-year research study, this volume examines the likely course of the AIDS epidemic over the next fifteen years. Extremely well-documented and based largely on sophisticated statistical analysis, the study makes detailed forecasts of who will become sick; explores the social, political, and economic consequences of the spread of this disease; and analyzes the controversial policy choices that must be made if the epidemic is to be contained. The authors argue that current policies have failed in their efforts to combat the spread of AIDS and suggest new public policy measures aimed at dramatically reducing the spread of the virus.

Excerpt

There are two ways to look at AIDS, and they yield substantially different conclusions. Unfortunately, the dominant approach, which has been shaped by the medical statistics relating to the end-stage disease of AIDS, has consistently distorted our understanding of the epidemic nature of the disease, what its course is likely to be, and how individuals and society should respond to it.

A realistic picture of this epidemic must focus instead on the far larger, and far less well documented, population of people who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Given the long time lag between initial infection and the onset of AIDS (a period that is lengthening as a result of successful medical intervention), the disease is spread in large part by people who are neither sick nor, in many cases, even aware that they are themselves infected.

This report is based on what the authors are convinced is a more realistic view of the epidemic, and it leads to a series of provocative conclusions and recommendations. To an extent these outcomes are at odds with those promulgated from other studies, many of which propose much lower degrees of HIV infection than are reported here. Hudson's detailed re-examination of available and commonly agreed-upon data became the basis for new modeling of likely patterns of transmission of the disease. The results of this modeling, which are based on numbers of people infected with HIV rather than on numbers of people with AIDS, take into account both behavior and demographics. Even in the most optimistic case the results are chilling. One set of conclusions that appears across all scenarios is that AIDS poses a significant threat to heterosexuals, who already account for half of all HIV infections . . .

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