Monday, September 27, 2004

Mapping the News

When I want to see what's occupying news "space," the newsmap is a graphical representation of current news stories (within the past hour) and how much attention is being given to each story. Health and technology seem to get the least "space" in the world of news; 6 times as much "space" is occupied by world news, national news, and sports.

Here's the AIDS-related story that is currently showing up on the news map: "The face of global AIDS," originally written by Kathleen Ingley of the Arizona Republic. Another 60 stories in U.S. media are based on this one, and no other AIDS-related story is currently showing on the map.

In a way, that might be good news. After all, any AIDS-related story would be helpful in maintaining public awareness that AIDS isn't over. As is often the case these days, however, this story focuses on the international crisis (a good thing) while implying that we have AIDS under control in the U.S. (not necessarily so). Here's what Ingley says:

We don't have a cure yet for AIDS, and a vaccine is years away.

But we know how to prevent this deadly disease. We have the medicines to treat it, keeping infected people healthy and prolonging their lives.

That has given us a handle on HIV/AIDS in the United States. The number of new infections has leveled off - although at 40,000 a year, it's still way too high.

Treatment with anti-retrovirals, which suppress the virus, is widely
available, and people have lived with the disease for years.

So it's easy to forget what a frightening global threat we're facing.

It's not that she's so wrong. It's just that she's so comfortable with the state of the epidemic in the U.S. We have to give her credit for noting that 40,000 new infections in the U.S. each year is "way too high." It is. However, there are still people (in the U.S.) who cannot afford those lauded HIV medications. Those medications are not a cure. They're not a picnic to take, either. The system which should be helping folks with lower incomes find access to those medications is complicated and flawed. Prevention efforts are continually hampered by right wing politics.

There's nothing comfortable about the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.

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