Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Numbers and Dollars

Last week, two books about the AIDS epidemic accused the UNAIDS organization of pumping up its figures of HIV/AIDS infections in order to "dramatize the epidemic" and "increase donor funding.” Estimating the number of people who are HIV positive in any community--especially in under-developed countries where stigma against the disease can cost an HIV positive person his or her life--is a slippery slope. Because of that difficulty, one of the authors, James Chin, agreed with UNAIDS that the debate should be more about how to spend scarce resources than on the numbers of people infected.

One thing that is not under scrutiny is how big a role the media plays in educating the public on health topics ranging from obesity to important HIV/AIDS. According to recent Kaiser Family Foundation reports, over 70% of the American public gathers the majority of their health information from one or more media outlets. Maybe the public should do more than just listen.

Maybe consumers should question how much of their money is actually going to fight the disease when they invest in a product driven by a cause marketing campaign, but that’s a whole other blog. The bottom line is consumers do care about the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is evident in the great number of Cable Positive supporters and the great number of people you see wearing Red branded products walking down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan on any given day. Any measures that discredit the struggle to stop the spread of this disease in the eyes of the consumer costs more than money – it costs lives.

While we strongly believe that widest distribution of resources is paramount, we thought that a special look at UNAIDS methodology of estimating cases of HIV/AIDS was merited, especially since how the media reports this story could directly effect whether or not a person with AIDS receives anti-retroviral drugs.

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