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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Exaggerations taint AIDS funding outlay

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As many of us have long expected, the truth is now finally emerging on the AIDS epidemic that has generated universal attention for more than a decade. A new United Nations report out last week acknowledged that those involved in fundraising for AIDS had greatly exaggerated the true numbers of the disease.

Granted, there are still as many as 33 million people infected with the AIDS virus, though some experts now put the number much lower. But most of that number is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa where a number of factors combine to make education there virtually impossible. But worldwide, researchers now say there are as many as 40 percent less new cases than before predicted. And there are at least an estimated 7 million less cases than we've been told. One report says there are 15 million less cases. You start to get the drift that we lack specific data.

Now the numbers are still staggering. But it makes you lack trust or offer support when you know that those who seek funding for the issue have consistently lied about the scope of the problem. And that apparently is exactly what has happened.

One researcher said there was a "tendency toward alarmism" which fits a "fundraising agenda."

Hollywood and the gay community have clearly used the inflated numbers to generate both interest and money. But now it appears that much of those funds could more usefully have been spent on other health issues. And should have been used for other health issues.

The United States probably needs to continue financial aid to Africa to help fight the problem. I won't argue that point. But you don't change a culture with money and everyone involved needs to understand this basic truth.

Last year, nearly $10 billion was provided to fight the spread of AIDS. That is an enormous outlay of funds by any measure. Yet when you consider that the numbers were vastly inflated it makes you regret that our money, our resources and our energies might have had a greater and more positive result if spent elsewhere.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen