AS they size up the course of an epidemic that has broken
through the walls erected to contain it, AIDS researchers exhibit a
mix of concern and expectation.
A decade after the AIDS virus was discovered, few cling to the
hope of quick fixes. The prospect of a medical cure seems remote.
As researchers probe for a solution, statistics pile up: By the
year 2000 the number of AIDS victims worldwide could quadruple to
40 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Arrayed against this projection is the unprecedented size of the
campaign to contain the AIDS epidemic. Though funding is still a
major problem, more money and attention have been devoted to AIDS
in the past 10 years than most comparable health threats get in a
"We're now into the second decade of an epidemic that is
continuing to expand and to cause major human suffering and loss of
life," says Helena Gayle, chief of the AIDS division of the United
States Agency for International Development. "So it's hard to feel
the battle is won."
"On the other hand," Dr. Gayle adds, "we have more knowledge of
the virus and there have been advances in learning how to change
the behavior that leads to the transmission of AIDS, at least in
the short run. We go into the second decade armed with important
information and with people who are extremely committed to halting
Major AIDS conference
Thousands of doctors and AIDS activists met in Amsterdam last
week to weigh the medical, social, and economic aspects of the AIDS
crisis. Five thousand scientific papers addressed the unknowns of
the AIDS virus. The conference also highlighted two underreported
aspects of the AIDS crisis.
The first is that AIDS is becoming more prevalent among women,
more of whom are expected to be infected by the year 2000 than men.
The second is that AIDS is directly linked to economic
underdevelopment and to the low status of women in most developing
countries - yet another reason why curbing the AIDS epidemic is
likely to be a long-term enterprise.
The meeting was the eighth in a series of annual international
AIDS conferences sponsored primarily by WHO. The conference will
convene next year in Berlin.
AIDS researchers say some of the biggest successes in the past
decade have resulted from aggressive awareness campaigns. Using
money donated by developed countries, third world governments are
publicizing the risks of aids and marketing condoms as the first
line of defense. …